Forget about the forecasts.
Projections had temperatures in Templeton dipping into the mid-30s overnight Friday. It didn’t stop high school football coach Dan Loney from donning shorts for his Eagles’ CIF-Southern Section Northwest Division quarterfinal playoff game.
Likewise, Templeton came into a 58-13 shellacking of South Torrance completing only 44 percent of its passes for fewer than 90 yards per game, and that didn’t stop Loney from going to the air early.
The Eagles (7-5) threw for three first-quarter touchdowns, including a daring reverse pass from deep in their own territory, and the cold got bitter only for the Spartans (6-6) as the night wore on.
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“The plan going into the playoffs is to do anything and everything really,” said Loney, a former Cal Poly, Atascadero High and Arena League standout in his first season as a head coach, “and we’re going to have fun doing it.”
For returning players and Loney, an assistant last season, the victory sets up a rematch with Cabrillo in Lompoc next Saturday and erased the memory of a 35-7 loss to South Torrance in the semifinal round in Templeton last season.
“I think last year, we watched the film, and we walked away from that thinking it should have been a closer game if not wining that game,” Loney said, “and we wanted to prove that this year.”
Junior quarterback Alex Elterman completed his first four passes, including touchdown strikes of 13 and 20 yards to Andrew Garrettson and Tobey Isbell, and finished with 80 yards passing and a third touchdown in the fourth quarter.
On Templeton’s first play from scrimmage, Garrettson hit Cameron Silzer on a reverse pass that Silzer caught on a jump ball near the Eagles’ 40-yard line and ran for a 73-yard touchdown.
Templeton led 20-0 before the Spartans mustered a score and took a 27-6 lead on a 44-yard touchdown run by Matt Arace early in the second quarter.
“That was the best first quarter we’ve had all year,” Elterman said. “And then we just carried with that energy the whole game.”
Arace did the rest, racking up 168 yards on 17 carries. He had 94 yards at the half and his darting runs helped the Eagles consistently move the sticks.
Templeton converted on four of six third downs throughout the game, but the Eagles were rarely in any long down-and-distance situations because of its running game.
“He’s fast and he’s tougher than he looks,” Elterman said of Arace, who’s listed at 5-foot-8 and 154 pounds. “He gets those heavy yards, and he’s just great.
“It was really on our line. Every game it’s how well our line plays, and that’s really what it comes down to.”
The talk coming into the game was how well the South Torrance offensive line was playing.
Running behind the duo of Kustis Heinemann (6-0, 300) and Orion Gould (6-3, 272), the Spartans put up more than 350 yards on the ground in last week’s playoff victory.
Friday, South Torrance was called for two costly third-down holding penalties, and the Eagles defense was stout enough to stuff the Spartans on two short-yardage fourth downs and a two-point conversion attempt from the 1-yard line.
Colton Glandorff ran nine times for 86 yards, and John Sico had 12 carries for 64 yards, but aside from a 90-yard kickoff return by Sico to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Kyle Nesbit to end the first quarter, neither runner had a huge day.
Nesbit was constantly harassed and, including sacks, finished with minus-17 yards rushing.
“We kind of knew they run two or three plays, and we knew what they’re favorite plays were,” Loney said. “Once we stopped those, we felt that the game was in our hands.”
Trailing just 27-13 at the half, South Torrance was still in the game after an attempt to set up a field goal to end the half backfired in a miss by Silzer to end it.
But Templeton received the ball to start the quarter and rattled off five straight unanswered scores.
Connor Truhitte ran it in from 2 yards out, Silzer connected for a 21-yard field goal, backup quarterback Weston Coy had a 14-yard touchdown run, Zal Robles caught a 14-yard pass from Elterman and James Ralston returned an interception 38 yards for a touchdown.
“When we came out in the second half,” Arace said, “I really felt like they were kind of just giving up, and we had it from there. “It feels good. We’re ready. We just want to keep on this roll and hopefully get this CIF championship.”