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Friday, January 18 , 2019, 9:07 pm | Fair 54º

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San Marcos Can’t Make Enough Big Plays to Beat San Luis Obispo

Dane Sterndahl, San Marcos Click to view larger
Dane Sterndahl of San Marcos breaks loose for a 22y-yard touchdown run. (Gary Kim photo)

Jason Fowle is a half-full-glass kind of guy. So the San Marcos High football coach wasn’t thinking drought after the Royals lost another close game to fall to 0-3 in August. 

 Instead, with cooler fall nights ahead, he was thinking of an untapped well of potential following Friday night’s 41-33 non-league loss to San Luis Obispo at Warkentin Stadium.

"I believe in these guys and they will win some games," said Fowle. "We are at a tipping point. You can see it in the game, you can see it by the score. We are right there. We're starting make our owns breaks, make some big plays. We just are not making enough."

He didn't say it, but you could tell from his voice he wanted to add, "Yet."

There were certainly plenty of things for Fowle and the Royals to believe in against the Tigers. Senior running back Tommy Schaeffer was a statistical monster, compiling more than 300 yards in total offense and scoring three touchdowns. He ran for 136 yards and caught seven passes for 117 yards, including two 45-yard weaving runs through the Tiger defense on screen passes. He also had two kick returns for 55 yards – no small feat since SLO kicker John Krill put almost every offering into the end zone.

Junior quarterback Ben Partee withstood a strong pass rush to produce another solid game, completing 14 of 28 passes for 236 yards after passing for 344 yards in a one-point loss to Santa Maria last week. 

"Tommy is a stud," said Fowle. "He has a real head for the game and he and Ben are working well together. (The Tigers) were expecting the screen and he and Tommy still found a way to make it work for some big plays."

Unfortunately, there were also several questions left unanswered for the Royals. For instance, was there anyone on the Royals who could stop San Luis Obispo quarterback Emilo Corona? In the second half, the answer was largely, no. The 6-foot, 190-pound junior led a third-quarter blitz for the Tigers, popping a 59-yard touchdown run and a 65-yard run to set up another score as San Luis Obispo (2-1) scored three times on just eight plays to take a 34-19 lead. He hit 6-foot-6 tight end Thomas Cole for a 5-yard score to make it 41-19 midway into the final quarter.

It was a dramatic reversal for the Tigers, considering that the second half could not have started worse. They fumbled the opening kickoff and Bryan Espinosa recovered for the Royals. A few plays later, Schaeffer ran 47 yards to put San Marcos up 19-14.

"We fumbled the kick but we rallied around it," said Corona. "We never doubted we would win this game." 

Corona totaled 208 rushing yards and added another 93 yards on 6-for-11 passing.  Running back Anthony Arroyo rushed for 134 yards and three touchdowns, including two 1-yard runs in the third quarter as the Tigers took control of the game.

Chad Lincoln, a 6-4, 220-pound senior spent a fair amount of time in the Royals backfield harassing Partee, recording a couple of sacks and several other pressures. The loss of a couple of Royals linemen to injury did not make it any easier on Partee.

"We forced Ben to take some drop backs where he really didn't have time to get the ball off," said Fowle. "We put him in a bad spot so that's probably on me."

One of the rushed throws was intercepted by Max Soltero and returned 44 yards to the San Marcos 1, setting up Arroyo's second score of the third quarter.

San Marcos opened the scoring on a 31-yard pass from Partee to Amari Dennis, but missed the PAT, which allowed San Luis Obispo to take the lead on Arroyo's 8-yard run and Krill's PAT kick with 53 seconds left in the quarter. The Tigers made it 14-6 on a 33-yard pass from Corona to Matthew Shetler. San Marcos rallied late in the half to score on a 22-yard run by Dane Stendahl after a 66-yard drive.

The Royals rallied again in the final minutes of the game, scoring on an 18-yard run by Schaeffer and, after a fumble by Corona, a 45-yard run by Schaeffer after taking a short screen pass from Partee with 3:39 to play. A couple of PAT kicks by David Hernandez put the Royals back in a familiar place at the end of the game — on the wrong side of a one-score game.

San Luis Obispo prevented any frantic finish by pounding Arroyo through the line on a series of runs that ran out the clock.

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