High School Sports

Special teams struggle as Morro Bay eliminated in football playoffs

The Buena High football team dominated all three phases of the game in the first half to eliminate Morro Bay 28-7 at Morro Bay on Friday night in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Western Division playoffs.

In the first half, the Bulldogs (7-4) outgained the Pirates 221-86, intercepted a Pirates pass and blocked two punts, returning one of them for a touchdown. It was the first time Morro Bay had a punt blocked all year. 

The Bulldogs drove into the red zone on their first drive but missed a field goal. The ensuing Morro Bay (7-4) drive stalled on three plays. The Bulldogs blocked the punt and the ball went out of bounds at the Pirates’ 20-yard line.

A few plays later, Bulldogs running Noah Martinez scored on a 9-yard run. Martinez finished with 156 yards on 28 carries and three touchdowns. He had 124 yards in the first half and did not play in the fourth quarter.

With the Pirates trailing 21-0, they attempted another punt, but it was blocked by a swarm of Bulldogs, and the ball bounced right into the hands of Juan Hernandez, who returned it 55 yards to increase the lead to 28-0.

“It came down to the special-teams breakdown. There were missed assignments on those punts,” Morro Bay coach Jack Greer said. “That’s on me and the coaching staff to have worked on them better in practice.”

In the second half, the Morro Bay offense started to show life behind Tristan Collins. With starting quarterback Dan Beavers out with a knee injury, the Bulldogs put eight men in the box to make the Pirates beat them through the air.

In the first half, Collins had just 30 yards on 11 carries, but in the second half he had 131 yards on 23 carries and a touchdown. Morro Bay outgained Buena in the second half, 193-60.

“We knew we had to switch it up,” Collins said. “Running right at them wasn’t working in the first half because they kept stuffing the box.”

Beaver’s replacement, Isaac Manuputy, was 5 for 11 for 80 yards and an interception. Wide receiver Zach Smith also threw an interception on a trick play.

Morro Bay was just 4 for 12 on third downs for the game, but was 3 for 3 on fourth down conversion attempts.

“There were a lot of naysayers this season,” Greer said. “We were picked to finish sixth in the Los Padres League, and we finished second for the second straight year. We played with tremendous heart and passion. I’ve had other coaches come up and tell me this season how they tell their team to imitate how hard we play.”

Morro Bay is expected to return five starters on offense and seven on defense for next season.