TEMPLETON — The Templeton Eagles hosted the Santa Maria Saints on Friday in an important matchup in the Northern Football League that currently holds the two aforementioned teams along with Morro Bay and Nipomo. Coming into the game Friday, all three of the top teams (everyone except Morro Bay) all had two wins on the season and were fighting for a chance to hold the top spot in league. The Eagles fell behind early in the game and were never able to gain any rhythm on the offensive side of the ball. Santa Maria ran away with the victory winning 52-21, and held a 40-7 lead at the halfway point.
Head Coach Tyler Lane made a change at quarterback this week and brought up sophomore Zack Logan from the Junior Varsity where he had been playing very well. Logan had flashes of brilliance combined with rookie mistakes, but played OK considering the circumstances of falling into an early 14-point deficit. Because Templeton plays at such a fast pace in the spread offense, rhythm is very important and on Friday they just didn't have it.
The Saints took their opening possession right down the field and punched it in to give themselves the early 7-0 lead. The Eagles were unable to get a first down on their first couple of possessions and thus gave the Saints great field position. After Templeton’s second three-and-out and a nice punt return from Santa Maria, the Saints started their drive at the Templeton 30 and were again able to score, hitting a receiver that was standing completely alone in the back corner of the endzone on a rollout pass. The Eagles secondary had trouble covering all the receivers the Saints would send into patterns for most of the night. The Saints continued to hit deep balls to wide open receivers all throughout the first half. Santa Maria’s quarterback Blake Truhitte played extremely well all evening. The Eagle pass rush was not able to generate much pressure and his running ability made it difficult for the defensive backs to stick with their receivers, which is most likely what led to Saint receivers standing all alone 40 yards down field.
It wasn't just the Eagles being out of sync that hurt them, they were called for a number of penalties in the game, some of which were very ticky-tack and seemed to always go against Templeton. With a sophomore quarterback in his first start in a high tempo spread offense, rhythm, timing, and staying ahead of the sticks is crucial. Every time it seemed the Eagles offense would start clicking, a flag would be thrown and not only would that put Templeton in first and second and long situations, it gave the Santa Maria players plenty of time to rest and communicate. Penalties are one thing, but the officials seemed to huddle and discuss every call, virtually stopping the game for a number of minutes and completely dismantling any flow the Eagles had created. For example, in the first quarter while only down 14, Logan flung the ball out to his receiver Jesse McClain for a wide receiver screen and he took it down the home sidelines for a big gain that should have put Templeton in the redzone. However, blocking in the back was called on the play and it was brought all the way back and forced the offense into an uncomfortable second and long. Logan now, more than likely, felt like he needed to push the ball down the field rather than stay within the short, quick passing game that the offense generally operates in. As a result, the next play was intercepted, all the momentum shifted and the Saints scored again. That was a big turning point in the game for both teams.
The few times the Eagles were in rhythm, the offense looked dangerous. Their first scoring possession came in the second quarter and started with a nice long run by junior running back Ryan Mcteer. With no flags on the field the Eagles hurried to the line and snapped the ball quickly, this time Logan connected with receiver Reed Hayes on a nice run-pass option (RPO) putting the Eagles past midfield and in Santa Maria territory for the first time. On the next play, Logan connected with McClain on a 38-yard touchdown. It was the Eagles biggest play of the night. McClain ran a go route and beat the one-on-one coverage and Logan delivered a perfect pass from the pocket right to the hands of McClain. The Eagles sideline erupted with emotion as the look in everyone's eyes collectively read, “See what we can do when our offense isn't interrupted!”
Templeton went for a surprise onside kick after the turn of momentum and almost recovered it. The ball bounced around perfectly and for a second it lay on the ground in plain sight in front of the Eagle coaches but after the pile cleared it was Santa Maria that had the ball.
The loss drops the Eagles to third in league with and 0-2 record in league games, but it is clear why Templeton is excited for the future. Templeton will look to regroup this week as they are on their bye and will get prepared for their last two games which are both very winnable. After the bye, Templeton will play a PAC 5 opponent when they travel to San Luis Obispo to take on the 1-6 Tigers, and then will finish their season on the road in a league matchup against Morro Bay.