The moment is still a bit too hard to grasp.
For Arroyo Grande High linebacker Seth Jacobs, he keeps his reminder on the cover of his binder. It’s a picture of his team, moments after defeating Culver City 42-14, with a caption reading “CIF-Southern Section Western Division Champions.” Every time he yanks it out of his backpack for class, he sits back and smiles.
For Garrett Owens, the Eagles’ multipurpose threat committed to Air Force, it didn’t set in until the day after. Hanging out with a handful of teammates, he finally grasped the full meaning of the phrase he and his friends jokingly kept repeating: We won it.
“It’s unexplainable,” Owens said.
Both Jacobs and Owens, in fact, played such an instrumental part in that historical run to Arroyo Grande’s fifth championship in program history, that the two have been named The Tribune’s San Luis Obispo County Co-Players of the Year.
“We have had some incredible players come through here,” Arroyo Grande coach Tom Goossen said. “They are going to be a part of that group of incredible players we’ve coached. Both those kids have the opportunity to not only play at the next level, but I think they have the ability to get a peek to play on a Sunday.”
The two combined for 2,069 yards from scrimmage and 22 total touchdowns this season, helping Arroyo Grande to an outright PAC 7 championship and its second consecutive trip to the Western Division final. And they didn’t just get it done on offense; on the other side of the ball, the two combined for 235 tackles and 10 interceptions.
“They’re special players,” San Luis Obispo coach David Kelley said. “Their football team wouldn’t have been the same without either one of those kids.”
Those two kids, however, had a lot they wanted to prove coming into this season.
After the Eagles saw Serra run off the field with the Western Division championship trophy in 2010, Owens, Jacobs and their teammates wanted more than anything for a chance to prove they were second to no one.
“We came in literally the next week, just to prepare for the upcoming season,” Jacobs said. “I speak for a lot of the seniors that played this last year because we were hungry, we got a little taste of what we could have been.
“We were talented, we were a really good class, and so we worked at it.”
Summer ball, spring ball, everything was in an effort to try and get back to that championship game and, this time, win it. The hype was certainly there as the Eagles were the favorite by most in the county to win the PAC 7 and maybe even run the table.
Then, the season opener against Lompoc happened.
“I think it was kind of what we needed to humble ourselves,” Owens said. “And I mean we all were big minded before the season and it definitely shut us up in a good way. It got us in the mindset that we need to try to be as successful as we can.”
The Eagles gave up a 21-0 second-quarter lead to fall to defending CIF-Southern Section Northwest Division champion Lompoc, 38-28. Despite Arroyo Grande’s two-score advantage in the third quarter, the Braves scored three TDs in a span of less than three minutes to take the lead and would never look back.
“When it came down to it, we beat ourselves that game, and we pretty much learned from that point on in order to win games, you can’t let that happen,” Jacobs said. “The Arroyo Grande Eagles did not beat themselves after that.”
He did what?
The Eagles got a second wind two games later, in the form of a 57-yard field goal.
It was a third-week, nonleague matchup against Templeton, but despite already leading the Eagles 42-10 in the fourth quarter, Jacobs had an idea. With a fourth down close to midfield, he stared at the uprights that stood nearly half the field away.
“We can kick this,” he said.
Owens thought the same thing, staring at the field goal try. At worst, he thought, if he could just get it into the end zone, it would be a touchback. So, he ran to the sideline, and after some careful persuasion with the coaching staff, he and Jacobs ran back out onto the field with the kicking team. As Owens stared at the goal post, with Jacobs crouched in front of him ready to hold, there were no nerves.
Seconds later, he nailed it.
“When I did that, everything just clicked,” Owens said. “I could tell this was going to be a great year.”
Going to the championship
In the second half of a semifinal game against Chaminade, that year almost came to an end.
Staring at a 21-14 halftime deficit while trying to stop running back Terrell Newby, who would eventually finish the game with 232 yards and four touchdowns on 39 carries, Jacobs put it bluntly.
“We need to pick it up,” Jacobs said to his teammates. “Or we’re going home.”
The Eagles did, scoring 31 second-half points with three rushing touchdowns from Jacobs, plus a score and a 33-yard field goal from Owens, en route to a 45-36 victory.
Then, what had been a goal all season, finally became a reality.
“It was almost written like a story,” Jacobs said. “It was incredible.”
Just another game
Goossen had made a habit of keeping his players focused on the task at hand. Every week, he’d make sure to look his athletes in the eyes and tell them that there was no bigger game on the schedule than the game at hand. And staring at their second consecutive berth to the Western Division final, that didn’t change.
But this one, indeed, meant so much more.
“It just couldn’t have been better,” Jacobs said. “We got to play our championship game at home, everyone was there. Our opponent thought they were loud, we were even louder.”
The matchup pitted the Eagles against Culver City, a team that pulled off an upset of top-seeded Serra in the first round and rode that momentum to make a Cinderella-type run to the championship game.
That run ended in Arroyo Grande — thanks to the 5-foot-7 Gabe Deleon.
Deleon scored three second-half touchdowns, from 22, 58 and 15 yards out, to give the Eagles enough fuel to turn what was a close game at halftime to a 28-point win.
“This group worked awfully hard,” Goossen said. “They all pushed each other in the right way. They were all extremely competitive and made each other better in the process.
“It’s a special group of athletes, you don’t get a group like this too many times. It’s more or less been the perfect storm for us. And we’ve certainly enjoyed the nice weather.”
They’ve gone their separate ways since. Jacobs is currently taking official visits to schools, still pondering exactly as to where he wants to play college ball. Owens is in the middle of basketball season, trying to make the most of his senior year before he graduates and attends the Air Force Academy in the fall.
Both, however, still take a few moments to remember the final game of their high school football careers — whether it be a picture on a binder, or a reminiscent conversation with friends.
“There is nothing, so far in my life, that can compare to the feeling of winning the most important game I’ve played in,” Owens said. “Nothing.”
ALL-COUNTY Football team
Players of the Year
Garrett Owens, Arroyo Grande, Sr.
Seth Jacobs, Arroyo Grande, Sr.
QB — Brent VanderVeen, Arroyo Grande, Sr.
RB — Jacob Flores, San Luis Obispo, Sr.
RB — Deontae Barnes, Atascadero, Sr.
FB — Henry Adelman, Arroyo Grande, Sr.
WR — Elias Stokes, Paso Robles, Sr.
WR — Trevor McGuire, San Luis Obispo, Sr.
OL — Garrett Weinreich, Arroyo Grande, Sr.
OL — Cody Hunstad, Arroyo Grande, Sr.
OL — Brandon Berguia, Arroyo Grande, Sr.
OL — Ross Berry, Templeton, Jr.
OL — Enoch Thompson, Atascadero, Sr.
All-purpose — Gabe Deleon, Arroyo Grande, Sr.
K — Garrett Schasteen, Paso Robles, Sr.
DL — Casey Dakin, Templeton, Sr.
DL — Andrew DaRosa, Mission Prep, Jr.
DL — James King, Arroyo Grande, Sr.
DL — Jack Ferguson, San Luis Obispo, Jr.
LB — J.T. Wells, Nipomo, Sr.
LB — Adam Woodhull, Atascadero, Sr.
LB — Davis Cracknell, Atascadero, Sr.
DB — Logan Sprouse, Atascadero, Sr.
DB — Trevor MacLeod, San Luis Obispo, Sr.
DB — Bryan Coburn, San Luis Obispo, Sr.
DB — Matt Willkomm, Arroyo Grande, Jr.
P — Tanner Kahn, San Luis Obispo, Sr.
All-County Second Team
QB — Garrett Giovannelli, San Luis Obispo, Jr.
RB — Matt Arace, Templeton, Jr.
RB — Justin Springer, Nipomo, Sr.
WR — Joey Hall, Mission Prep, Jr.
WR — Max Blanton, Paso Robles, Sr.
WR — Tobey Isbell, Templeton, Jr.
OL — Jack Milstead, San Luis Obispo, Jr.
OL — Russell Moran, Nipomo, Sr.
OL — Jonathan Miller, Morro Bay, Sr.
OL — Justin Purkey, Arroyo Grande, Sr.
OL — Dylan Potter, Atascadero, Sr.
All-purpose — Mac Stuart, Paso Robles, Sr.
DL — Skylor Gram, San Luis Obispo, Sr.
DL — Brett Kimball, Nipomo, Sr.
DL — Cole Foubert, San Luis Obispo, Jr.
LB — Joseph Aguiar, Atascadero, Sr.
LB — Ciaran Costa, Arroyo Grande, Sr.
LB — Andrew DeSesa, Mission Prep, Jr.
LB — David Katz, Paso Robles, Sr.
DB — Ian Wilkinson, Nipomo, Jr.
DB — Cameron Silzer, Templeton, Sr.
DB — Dominic Chance, Atascadero, Jr.
DB — Tyler Auerbach, Arroyo Grande, So.
K — Taylor Apetz, Nipomo, Jr.
P — Arturo Castaneda, Atascadero, Sr.
Arroyo Grande — Morgan Beaudoin, DL, Sr.; Chris Addy, LB, Jr.; Elijah Holt, DB, Jr.
Atascadero — Robbie Berwick, QB, So.; J.D. Mack, WR, Sr. Rob Hixson, DB; Jr.; Matt Cuen, DB, Sr.
Mission Prep — Tyler Baty, QB; Jr.; Mike Cardwell, RB, Jr.; Patrick Laird, RB, So.; Trevor Fernandez, WR, So.
Morro Bay — Dolin Mininni, RB, Sr.; Tristan Collins, RB, So.; Juan Acuna, WR, Sr.; Jake Beavers, LB, Jr.; Kaine Davis, LB, Jr.
Nipomo — Chris Souza, QB, Sr.; Chris Lemus, DL, Sr.; Jake Evans, DL, Sr.
North County Christian — Daniel Katches, All-Purpose, Sr.; Curtis Sarnecki, DL, Sr.
Paso Robles — Colton Madrigal, RB, Jr.; Colby Kerns, OL, Jr.; Deonte Willis, OL, Sr.
San Luis Obispo — Erick Cordova, RB Sr.
Shandon — Micheal Portney, All-Purpose; Jr.; Jose Hernandez, All-Purpose, Sr.
Templeton — Conner Truhitte, RB, Jr.; Jackson Wheeler, LB, Jr.; James Ralston, DB, Sr.