This wasn’t how the San Luis Obispo High football team wanted to end the season.
At the same time, the Tigers have said all along not too many people outside of the program thought they were going to do much damage in the CIF-Southern Section Western Division playoffs. In fact, this is the first time in five years that they’ve made it this far.
And what a season ending they experienced. San Luis Obispo exchanged punches with visiting Chaminade, the third seed in the division, all night long but ended up with a 31-27 heartbreaking loss Friday night.
According to the Tigers, they felt the game was taken away from them.
Their best evidence came with about eight minutes left in the game. That was when Chaminade’s explosive running back, junior Terrell Newby, marched in his third touchdown of the night — enough for the final tally. But after the game, the Tigers said it wasn’t the right call.
Coach Dave Kelley thought Newby, a Pac-12 recruit, coughed up the ball on the 1-yard line. That was when San Luis Obispo’s Jacob Flores recovered the fumble.
“The ball was out,” Kelley said.
The referees thought otherwise, though there were discussions with Kelley after the play if that was truly the case. Nonetheless, the Tigers had one final drive, which was highlighted by a 37-yard reception from Donald Myrick. It appeared that the senior just snatched the ball from a Chaminade defender as they fell to the ground.
On the next play, the Eagles were whistled for an unsportsmanlike conduct — giving San Luis Obispo great field position at the Chaminade 11-yard line. But with 10 seconds left in the game, a last-ditch attempt from junior quarterback Garrett Giovannelli, who was solid with two TD runs, was intercepted by Alexander Small.
“That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through,” said San Luis Obispo’s Flores, who rushed 27 times for 165 yards and one score. “Our team fought all night. We were the better team. We didn’t get the calls we wanted. But that’s life. It’s a hard thing to accept, this loss, but we brought back respect to our program.”
The Tigers held a 13-8 halftime lead before Newby went on a tear. After Chaminade quarterback Logan Scott connected with Elijah Dunston for a 44-yard score, Newby sprinted 69 yards down his team’s sideline for a 24-13 lead. Newby finished with 34 carries for 230 yards and three touchdowns.
However, San Luis Obispo wasn’t out of it just yet.
Giovannelli engineered a 13-play, 61-yard drive that ended with the Tigers QB finishing from 1 yard out to cut the Chaminade lead to 24-20. After a blocked punt by Jake Niezen, the Tigers got the ball back at the opponent’s 21-yard line and capitalized, thanks to Giovannelli scoring on a 6-yarder to take back the lead at 27-24 just four seconds into the fourth quarter.
But the game ended in heartbreak for the Tigers, who said Newby’s third and final score shouldn’t have counted.
At the same time, San Luis Obispo had quite a journey. This was the first time since 2006 that the Tigers have participated in the quarterfinals.
“It doesn’t take anything away from what we done,” Kelley said about Friday’s loss. “Our kids are a championship team, period. The better team didn’t win tonight. We were the best team tonight. With our ability to fight all night, we kicked their (butts).”