From an outsider’s point of view, the Arroyo Grande High football team is supposed to be here.
From an insider’s point of view, the Arroyo Grande players and coaches have the opposite feeling. That means they’re not looking at every game as if it’s an automatic win.
Second-seeded Arroyo Grande’s next assignment is No. 3 seed Chaminade, tonight’s opponent at Arroyo Grande’s Hitchen Stadium in the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Western Division playoffs. Kickoff is at 7.
Arroyo Grande is one step from matching last season’s unexpected wild-card run that concluded in the title game. If Arroyo Grande wins, it will face either Culver City or Santa Monica.
“We’ve been trying to keep the momentum that we built in the first two games and carry it into the rest of the playoffs,” said Air Force-bound kicker Garrett Owens, who also runs, catches and defends pretty well. “It’s huge for us to play in December.”
Even before this season started, an Arroyo Grande championship run wasn’t a far-fetched concept.
Arroyo Grande went on a memorable run in 2010, which ended with a 35-10 defeat to Serra in the section title game. (The Cavaliers then made a second consecutive state bowl appearance.) Despite the shortcoming, Arroyo Grande set itself up for a similar campaign this season.
“We set goals in the beginning to go deep in the CIF playoffs,” offensive lineman Brandon Berguia said. “It’s right there. What we want is up for grabs. We’re keeping our eyes on the prize.”
Arroyo Grande welcomed back a slew of college-bound starters, including Owens, quarterback Brent VanderVeen (Oregon State) and offensive lineman Garrett Weinreich (Oregon State).
Linebacker Seth Jacobs is a four-star recruit who has fielded offers from most of the Pac-12 schools, as well as other top college programs.
With that kind of talent, a playoff run like last year’s was bound to happen to Arroyo Grande (11-1) again.
With other dynamic forces such as two-way stars Henry Adelman and Gabe Deleon, Arroyo Grande is considered the favorite against a surging 10-2 Chaminade team.
Chaminade is coming off a heart-pumping 31-27 victory over San Luis Obispo in last week’s quarterfinal match in which running back Terrell Newby ran 29 times for 282 yards and three touchdowns.
“I wish it was just the running game that we had to worry about,” Arroyo Grande coach Tom Goossen said, pointing out other Chaminade threats such as quarterback Logan Scott.
Newby is just another challenge Arroyo Grande has to overcome. The PAC 7 champion, after demolishing Dos Pueblos 41-6 in the opening round of the playoffs, traveled to La Cañada Flintridge last week and dominated St. Francis 49-28 with Owens — who seems to never stop — catching a TD pass, returning an interception for a 32-yard score and kicking two field goals of 50 and 27 yards.
So, yes, Arroyo Grande is ready for its next challenge: Chaminade. The two teams met in last season’s semifinals, where Arroyo Grande rolled to a 52-19 win with a good chunk of this year’s players.
“Quite frankly,” Goossen said, “the pressure isn’t any different from any other week. Every coach and every player put pressure on themselves to perform at the highest level every game. This week is no different.
“From the outside looking in, it may look different. From our perspective, it’s another game in which will be tested and we have to play well in order to compete.”