After last year’s run to the quarterfinals of the CIF-Southern Section Western Division playoffs, San Luis Obispo High football coach David Kelley knows that expectations are high for his team in 2012.
But with a plethora of returning talent, he has no doubt that the Tigers are going to be ready for the challenge.
There might not be a team in the county that returns as much talent from a year ago as San Luis Obispo returns its starting offensive and defensive lines, its quarterback and its leading tackler from last season.
“They’re a family,” Kelley said, when asked about his team’s chemistry. “They will bleed for each other. With the experience coming back, these kids know the expectations. They know the system, and so they’re good leaders. They know what’s expected and how to do this.”
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That confidence from the top spills down to the players.
“If we can get our communication down, we’re gonna be a juggernaut,” team captain and starting center Jack Milstead said. “It’s going to be pretty hard to stop us, and I feel that we can hold our own on the line.”
The defensive line got a big boost when the Tigers’ all-Southern Section linebacker Jack Ferguson, who has already garnered attention from Pac-12 schools such as Cal, UCLA and Colorado, made the switch from middle linebacker to defensive end.
“He’s a playmaker and a game changer,” Kelley said. “That’s his role.”
Ferguson tallied 152 tackles last year, averaging more than 12 per game, and, along with Milstead and senior quarterback Garrett Giovannelli, has stepped into a new position as a leader on the team.
“It’s a different feel,” Milstead said. “We’re leading the team instead of following some guys. I think we’re working harder than last year, which is pretty unbelievable because we put a lot into it last year. Our team is even closer than we were, which is a good thing.”Giovannelli echoed the same sentiments.
“We’re working hard to bring this team together,” he said. “Really leading these guys and having command of the huddle. We really want to turn it around this year.”
The second-year starter at quarterback put up 1,284 yards and 10 touchdowns through the air and 782 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground in San Luis Obispo’s triple-option attack last season.
“As he goes, we go offensively,” Kelley said. “When he is on his game, it’s difficult to stop him.”
And when asked what the goals are for a team one season removed from a successful playoff run, Giovannelli only had two words to say.