The spring football season hits its stride in Santa Maria this week. There will be games at St. Joseph, Righetti, Santa Maria and Pioneer Valley Friday and Saturday.
There is some disappointment, though. There won't be the Big Game between Lompoc and Cabrillo this spring and Dos Pueblos has canceled its game with Santa Barbara as well.
Let's take a look at the games we do have.
Templeton (3-0) at St. Joseph (3-0)
Who would've thought the Templeton-St. Joseph matchup would be the marquee showdown of the spring? Probably quite a few people in and around the Templeton program and not many else.
But here we are.
Templeton is unbeaten and coming off the stunning 49-12 win over Arroyo Grande last week. Now, I thought Templeton had a slight shot of beating Arroyo Grande, but I had absolutely no idea that Templeton would crush the (other?) Eagles like that.
Quarterback Tyler Kaschewski has been pretty decent this spring. He's only averaging about 240 yards rushing a game. Kaschewski had 372 yards and five touchdowns against Arroyo Grande. Not bad, right? He's already gained over 700 yards rushing in just three games. Kaschewski is averaging 14 yards per carry and already has nine rushing TDs. He hasn't been great throwing, completing 9-of-21 passes for 125 yards and no touchdowns.
Now, that 3-0 record includes wins over Wasco and Morro Bay, two opponents that are nowhere near St. Joseph. (Nipomo and Santa Maria beat Morro Bay by combined scores of 63-14).
The two teams do have a common opponent in Arroyo Grande. The Knights beat those Eagles 45-14 the week before Templeton beat them, but it easily could've been worse. I'm not sure if Templeton let off the gas in its 49-12 win over Arroyo Grande last week.
If St. Joseph can slow down Kaschewski, there's no way Templeton will win that game. I think he's a lock to top 100 yards, but he's got to do a lot more to give Templeton a win. The Eagles are new to the Mountain League and have shown great growth under the last three years, but they're still a ways away from competing with a program like St. Joseph.
This one could be a fun game and I won't be shocked if it's competitive for a half, but St. Joseph is the better team.
Templeton was impressive last week, but Arroyo Grande is one of those teams being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, so it's not quite enough for me to pick them against St. Joseph. I'm going with the Knights.
THE PICK: St. Joseph 45, Templeton 28
San Luis Obispo (0-2) at Righetti (1-0)
Righetti finally got to play last week after waiting two weeks in quarantine.
The Warriors clearly had a lot of pent up energy as they came out firing on all cylinders in the 34-7 win over Paso Robles.
The promising sign for Righetti was that the Warriors clearly had some first-game miscues and still overpowered Paso Robles. If they clean up those mistakes, watch out for Righetti. And, of course, the Righetti-St. Joseph matchup gets better and better if both teams can enter that contest unbeaten next week, which I think is a definite possibility.
Joaquin Cuevas looked good at QB for Righetti, Chris Miller made plays all over the field and then there's Kidasi Nepa ready to eat up carries and pick up yards. (Elias Martinez is also dynamic at WR/DB).
Casey Daniels is another athlete Righetti has in its arsenal. (Also, Daniels BOOMED a punt last week and I would tell him to continue crafting his punting game if he wants to continue playing football after high school. At 6-foot-2, he's got the perfect build for a next-level punter and showed off some major power and potential. It's never too late to find your best position on the field).
THE PICK: Righetti 33, SLO 15
Mission Prep (2-1) at Santa Maria (2-1)
Not long after Santa Maria beat Atascadero 35-0 last week, Saints coach Dan Ellington, started turning his attention to Mission Prep.
The Royals were dominant in their first two wins (beating Nipomo 24-10 and Atascadero 56-6), but were stunned 13-6 by Pioneer Valley on March 31. That means both the Saints and Royals are 2-1 heading into this one.
Mission Prep finally has some time to rest up and prepare after playing three games in 11 days. Santa Maria, though, has some major momentum after the shutout win over Atascadero.
This is a really tough one to pick. Mission Prep was out of sorts and listless against Pioneer Valley and I do think that crunch of games had a role in it. I also think Pioneer Valley is an improved team.
Santa Maria, meanwhile, got its groove back against Atascadero last week. Murad Alamari can make some big throws and the Saints have plenty of offensive weapons with Nick Martinez, Alex Rodriguez and Joannes Gonzalez. They've also got some pretty good size, though they've been depleted with injuries.
THE PICK: Mission Prep 35, Santa Maria 27
Nipomo (2-1) at Pioneer Valley (1-0)
This is another tough one.
Nipomo has been hit-or-miss this spring, with the bad opener against Mission Prep and one good quarter against Santa Maria to steal a win. The Titans finally put it all together against Morro Bay (0-3) last week in a 42-7 win.
Nate Reese is really growing at quarterback, which is nice to see. Keyshawn Pu'a is always making plays and the Titans have a nice mix of emerging play-makers, like Declan Coles, Gabe Evans and Justin McKee.
I think Nipomo is the favorite. It's hard to gauge Pioneer Valley after just one game. I do think the Panthers are much better than they were in 2019, I think Nipomo just has a bit too much for them this week.
THE PICK: Nipomo 24, Pioneer Valley 16
Santa Ynez (2-1) at San Marcos (1-2)
Santa Ynez has been on a roll, thanks in large part to the rushing and receiving of Logan Ast, who has 657 yards of offense and eight touchdowns over the last two weeks.
San Marcos has struggled this spring, missing the Santa Barbara game due to COVID-19 and then barely beating a Cabrillo team that hasn't won a game since 2017.
I think it's a pretty safe bet that Santa Ynez will win this game and win it handily. The Pirates' 24-7 loss to Lompoc to open the season actually is more impressive now after the Braves have downright boat-raced their other two opponents this spring.
I think Ast will have another productive game, but perhaps the Pirates achieve a little more balance with Bennett Redell and the passing attack leading the way against the Royals.
THE PICK: Santa Ynez 50, San Marcos 8
Arroyo Grande (1-2) at Paso Robles (1-2)
Arroyo Grande and Paso Robles are in similar boats. They've both got some top athletes playing other sports this spring and they probably would've been much better teams if the 2020 fall season would've gone on unaffected by the pandemic.
I thought Arroyo Grande looked good against Atascadero, which is way down this spring. The Eagles then got beat up by St. Joseph (expected) and Templeton (somewhat unexpected).
Paso had a nice bounce-back win over SLO before losing to Righetti last week. I think Arroyo Grande has a little more than Paso Robles as Makai Puga has been great this spring and Russell Ferrall has done a good job leading the Eagle defense, including a 23-tackle performance against Templeton last week.
THE PICK: Arroyo Grande 32, Paso Robles 18
Morro Bay (0-3) at Atascadero (0-3)
Cool deal for these teams to finally get on a level playing field after they've both been beaten pretty badly this spring.
I haven't seen Morro Bay at all this spring and Atascadero was decent for a bit against Arroyo Grande and is traditionally stronger.
I'll go with the 'Hounds.
THE PICK: Atascadero 29, Morro Bay 12
SEASON RECORD: 18-4
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