THS downs Mission Prep 38-21 to claim crown

TEMPLETON — The Templeton Eagles beat the Mission Prep Royals at home on Friday night 38-21 to finish undefeated in the Ocean League and grab their first league title since the 2005 season. It was many people’s game of the week and the crowd resembled it as both the home and visitor sidelines were full on Friday and while it was a fun and entertaining first half, the Eagles (8-1) ran away with the game in the second and were only a few defensive plays from pitching a shutout on the night. 

Following a 3-7 season a year ago, the Templeton Eagles made a change at head coach and brought back Don Crow, who helped them claim their last league title in 2005, and just as he did last time, he has helped turn the team around and has them back on top of the league looking for more in the playoffs. The Eagles won only eight games total in the past three years and Friday’s win over the Royals put them at eight on the season but they aren’t done yet, with a win next week over Nipomo they are almost guaranteed a top 4 seed in the CIF Central Section playoffs. 

“After all these years of struggling and being at the bottom, to finally get up here and come to the top and to have the energy in the last half and to really have the heart to keep on fighting, it’s an awesome feeling,” junior running back Josh Berna said following the game. “Especially when it pays off, that makes it the best.”

The Templeton Eagles charge onto the field before kickoff. (Photo courtesy of Mike Ens)

While Mission Prep might not have looked, on paper, like an opponent that could stand up to the Templeton offense, the Royals came into the game riding a three-game winning streak and after being hit with injuries to start the year, also entered the game fairly healthy and ready to prove they belonged. 

Friday night might have been the fastest game in the county all season as neither team was particularly interested in tossing the pigskin around the yard as was evident by both teams combining for less than 150 yards through the air. This game took place in the trenches and was won by the big guys on both the THS offensive and defensive lines who opened holes for their backs and closed them on the boys with the blue helmets. 

The Eagles started the game with a typical Templeton drive. Kaschewski broke off a long run to get the drive started and then began feeding his two running backs, Josh Berna and Michael Avery, as they worked it down the field. On the eighth play, Berna flashed through a hole and cut outside beating a Mission defender into the endzone for the game’s first touchdown. 

Knowing they needed to keep pace with the high-flying Eagles’ offense the Royal offense looked a little nervous on the opening drive quickly going three-and-out and giving the ball back to Templeton who repeated the same recipe that worked on the first drive with Berna again punching it in, this time from 21-yards out. 

Junior running back Josh Berna regains his balance after breaking a Mission Prep tackle. (Photo courtesy of Mike Brennler)

Up 14-0 many in attendance thought this game was over in the first half but the Royals showed their resiliency and answered back. Following the first two drives, the Mission Prep defense made some adjustments, stiffened, and only allowed three more points in the half giving their offense a chance to come back. 

Early in the second quarter, the Royals rolled out quarterback Mark Rodriguez who found Calton Brown running all alone in the Eagles’ secondary and hit him for a 48-yard gain, giving his seemingly lifeless team an adrenaline shot in the process.

On the ensuing possession, up 14-7, Kaschewski broke two tackles and ran 50 yards to paydirt but it was called back due to a hold and once again the Eagles were forced to punt. Just as they had in the previous drive, the Royals dialed up the roll-out pass, this time to receiver Assani Berkeley for 40 yards and tied the game up a few plays later, leaving the home Templeton crowd in shock. 

Templeton quarterback Tyler Kaschewski runs for a first down against Mission Prep. (photo courtesy of Mike Brennler)

However, they left 24.9 seconds on the clock, which was enough for Kaschewski to get the Eagles in position for a last-second field as Templeton went into the break up 17-14. 

The second half was all Templeton. The Eagles came out and took their opening possession down the field and this time it was Avery who punched it in, putting the Eagles up by 10 points. The Royals turned into the Bad News Bears on their next two possessions as they fumbled twice on consecutive plays with the second one coming on a kickoff after an Eagles touchdown extended the lead to 24. 

The fourth quarter was a battle of attrition with both teams continuing to beat on each other at the line of scrimmage. The Royals added one more score with less than a minute to go in the game but the players were already planning their ice bath assault on coach Crow who got it just a few seconds after shaking hands with the Mission Prep players. 

“Oh this means everything to the kids,” Crow said following the game. “They did a great job. I am very happy for them but my hat is off to Mission Prep, they are a physical football team and if they had more than 19 guys they would be really good but for our kids to win a championship after only winning eight games the last three years and then to win eight games this year, what a testament to them.”

The Eagles will honor their seniors in their final home game of the regular season on Friday, Nov. 1, when they welcome the Nipomo Titans to Erb Field.