Playing San Luis Obispo for the first time in school history, the Nipomo Titans won 34-13 on homecoming at Titan Stadium Friday night.
“It was huge,” Nipomo head coach Tony Dodge said about beating San Luis Obispo. “We treat all these league games as must-wins to get where we ultimately need to be. Our team goal before the year was to be (Ocean) League champions and we had to have this victory.”
Taking an 13-0 lead in the first quarter, Nipomo maintained the upper hand on San Luis Obispo to improve to 3-0 in the Ocean League.
“If feels good but it’s even bigger for Coach Dodge since he’s an (alumnus) of SLO High,” Nipomo running back Keyshawn Pu’a said.
Taking the opening kickoff, the Titans (6-2, 3-0) capped off a 62-yard drive with an 8-yard touchdown run by full back Nicholas Dostal. Running back Ricky Iniguez had a 24-yard carry on the possession to push Nipomo across midfield.
Following a missed 50-yard field goal attempt by the Titans, the Tigers’ (5-3, 1-2) offense took the field for the second time. San Luis Obispo’s drive stalled out following a first down with a fumble that was scoped up by Pu’a at the Tigers’ 24-yard line.
“My coach said all week hop on them early and don’t let them in the game, that’s what we did,” Pu’a said.
With a first down putting Nipomo in the red zone, Pu’a turned the turnover into a Titans touchdown, punching it in for a 6-yard score. The point after touchdown was no good. Pu’a finished the night with 55 yards rushing on 12 touches.
“Keyshawn is always a big part of our team. When he plays well and plays with intensity and enthusiasm like he did, he can make things happen just like he did tonight,” Dodge said. “You also have to give some of the credit to our defensive line, (San Luis Obispo’s) quarterback was running for his life most of the night which resulted in some of these turnovers.”
Pu’a collected two turnovers against San Luis Obispo, picking off Tigers quarterback Emilio Corona in the fourth quarter.
“The interception means a lot, it felt really good, but I got caught by a lineman,” Pu’a said. “Can’t get caught by linemen.”
As the Tigers looked to build momentum in the second quarter, San Luis Obispo went for it on fourth-and-1 to keep the drive alive. Max Soltero picked up the first down for San Luis Obispo with a 2-yard carry, but the drive ended three plays later when the Titans forced the punt.
The Tigers defense slowed the Titans in the second frame, forcing Nipomo to punt twice in the quarter. San Luis Obispo came up with the big stop when Seth Wampler intercepted Nipomo quarterback Brayden Groshart in the end zone with 1:04 left in the half.
Nipomo cushioned its lead in the third quarter when Groshart connected with Carmelo Hernandez for a 34-yard touchdown reception. Hernandez had a 12-yard catch to set up the score. The Titans led 20-0 going into the final quarter.
“Hernandez was a stud tonight,” Dodge said. “Anytime we threw the ball near him he made these amazing catches.”
Hernandez led the Titans in receiving with 99 yards five catches.
The longest pass of the game came in the third quarter when Corona connected with Sam Ogden for 61 yards to put the Tigers at the Nipomo 3-yard line. The Nipomo defense shut down San Luis Obispo at the goal line, resulting in a turnover on downs.
The fourth quarter saw a series of touchdowns exchanged between the Tigers and Titans, with Nipomo outscoring San Luis Obispo 14-13 in the quarter.
San Luis Obispo collected its first points of the game at the 9:15 mark in the final frame when Corona connected with Matthew Shetler for a 36-yard score.
Not allowing the Tigers to build momentum following Shetler’s touchdown, Iniguez broke lose for 36 yards on the ground and the score to put the Titans up 27-7.
Corona threw his second touchdown pass of the game on the Tigers next possession, rolling out to the right and finding Soltero in the front corner of the end zone to make a two-score game with 3:03 left.
Down 14 points, San Luis Obispo went for the onside kick but a penalty on the kickoff pushed the Tigers back 5 yards. The second attempt at the onside kick didn’t go the Tigers way with the Titans falling on the ball at the 50-yard line.
Groshart sealed the win for Nipomo with the final score of the game, breaking loose up the middle on a quarterback sneak for a 43-yard touchdown.
“It was a designed play because it was short yardage, it was only second down so I don’t think they were expecting a quarterback sneak up the middle. Their tackles were wide, their backers were wide, so I snapped it quick and ran,” Groshart said.
Groshart finished with 116 yards passing for Nipomo, completing 9 of 17 passes, throwing a touchdown and an interception. Groshart finished with 45 yards rushing.
Throwing for 206 yards for the Tigers, Corona completed 15 of 33 passes thrown, collecting two touchdown passes and tossing an interception.
“Our goal was to stop the run. If we can stop the run and force a team to throw like we did there than we are in good shape,” Dodge said. “I’m not a big guy on yardage, I don’t really care if they have 500 yards. If they have 13 points on the board, we should win the game.”
Nipomo held San Luis Obispo to 44 yards on the ground while the Titans rushed for 204 yards. Leading the way for Nipomo was Iniguez with 64 yards on 13 carries.
Winning the Titans’ king and queen homecoming crowns were Carlos Guzman and Ashlee Andrade.
Nipomo hits the road next week to battle the Pioneer Valley Panthers, who improved to 3-0 in the Ocean League with a win over Morro Bay. The Tigers will remain on the road next Friday, traveling to Templeton to face the Eagles.