In matchups the past two years, the Arroyo Grande High football team has beaten Templeton by a combined 67 points in two blowout victories.
But this year, off to a 2-0 start and more swagger in its step, Templeton is on a mission to change that storyline.
The two teams — duking it out for the best team to call themselves the Eagles — will take the field at Arroyo Grande at 7 p.m.
This year likely is Templeton’s best chance in the schools’ third matchup in history to win.
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“Arroyo Grande is always a good team,” Templeton senior quarterback Alex Elterman said. “It would mean a lot for us to take this game. We’re coming off our first win last week against a PAC 7 league team (Pioneer Valley) in school history. A win against A.G. would give us a lot of confidence for the rest of the season.”
Arroyo Grande, a much larger school coming off a CIF- Southern Section Western Division title in 2011, found its groove last week with a dominating 50-7 win over Nipomo.
Arroyo Grande lost several key players from its title team who accounted for around 7,000 yards in offense combined last year.
Four are playing at big name schools: Seth Jacobs (Oklahoma State) and Brent VanderVeen, Garrett Owens and Garrett Weinreich (Oregon State). In addition, Arroyo Grande graduated leading rushers Henry Adelman and Gabe DeLeon.
“You can’t replace those guys nor should you,” Arroyo Grande coach Tom Goossen said. “But that’s the beauty of high school football — to watch your growth and see what you can do with the team you have each year.”
Goossen said that his team has made strides from the opening week, when Arroyo Grande received a 31-0 thumping from highly touted Lompoc before evening its record last week.
“I felt like our quarterback, Matt Willkomm, has distributed the ball well in both games,” Goossen said. “Our biggest improvement between the first two games has been the offensive line. And our defense has been flying around the ball a little better.”
Goossen was quick to credit Templeton coach Dan Loney for gearing up his team and getting them off to a strong start.
“Coach Loney is doing a great job with those kids,” Goossen said. “Templeton is going to beat a lot of teams this year. This is a game that certainly will not be underestimated by us.”
Templeton’s Wednesday practice was invigorated by the back beat of rock music booming from a set of speakers.
An 80-degree North County afternoon with swirling clouds compared with recent 100-degree plus days in the heart of late summer.
One of the tunes — “Life in the Fast Lane” by The Eagles — could be an anthem for the team’s standout trio of receivers in Tobey Isbell, Andy Garrettson, and Tyler Murphee.
Each of the three has made strong contributions to the first two games, including Garrettson’s nine catches for 74 yards last week and a touchdown to go with Isbell adding 69 yards on three catches and a TD.
Execution and discipline will be keys to tonight’s game, Loney said.
“All we need to do is worry about playing the best we can and the score will take care of itself,” Loney said.
Over at Arroyo Grande this week, before the start of practice, Willkomm, the 5-foot-10, 165-pound quarterback casually tossed the pigskin around.
Though he’s much smaller in stature at QB than his counterpart in Elterman, who stands at 6-foot-3 and 180, Willkomm said that Templeton is a team they can’t “underestimate.”
“They’re a smaller school, and that motivates us to play well because we shouldn’t lose to them,” Willkomm said. “We have to come out fired up. As coach tells us all the time, we gotta come out throwing the first punch and get off to a good start.”
Willkomm was 6-for-10 passing for 65 yards against Nipomo. But he didn’t attempt a throw after his second touchdown pass of the game, a 5-yarder to Grant Alton that made it 21-0 with 3:56 left in the first quarter. Alan Osio had a game-high 90 yards rushing on 15 carries.
Goossen, who has 39 years of experience coaching junior college and high school football, said he talks with his graduates playing in college regularly. He said of the four who went off to big college programs, each are redshirting this season.
“I think that’s good for them because it will give them a chance to adjust to the academics in college,” Goossen said.