It would've been understandable for Righetti's football team to fold under the pressure Friday night.
After all, the Warriors' starting quarterback was knocked out of the game on the first offensive drive. They were playing against a team in Arroyo Grande they hadn't beaten since 2009. They were playing at the Eagles' Doug Hitchen Stadium in front of a crowd energized after the Eagles reeled off 14 straight points to lead 14-7 in the first quarter.
But the Warriors didn't buckle or fold. Apparently, that thought never crossed their minds. Instead, the Warriors fought back.
Righetti senior quarterback Brandon Giddings took back the reins on offense after junior Logan Mortensen went down with a collarbone injury, the Warrior rushing offense took over and the defense tightened up. The Warriors then steamrolled their former bully 46-24 in a Mountain League game Friday night.
Righetti is now 8-1 overall and 3-0 in Mountain League play. They will enjoy their bye week before their regular season finale against rival St. Joseph on Oct. 26. That game could determine the league championship. Arroyo Grande, meanwhile, is 6-3 and 1-2 in league games. The Eagles play at Atascadero next week in their regular season finale, playing 10 games in 10 consecutive weeks.
Giddings had started the season at quarterback, but began to fill in at safety on defense and running back on offense as Logan Mortensen emerged as a pocket-passing option to help give Righetti's offense more variety.
But Friday night, Mortensen was driven into the turf on a completed pass to Elijah Shuffield just minutes into the game. Giddings made a quick equipment change and immediately took control of his original quarterback position.
"As soon as Logan went down I started taking off my gloves from the running back position. I just knew I had to step up and lead my team to victory," Giddings said.
That's just what the senior did, capping the Warriors' first drive with a 30-yard touchdown strike to sophomore running back Kidasi Nepa. Giddings then continued to make timely throws and gain critical yards on the ground, complementing the running of Adan Solis, Anthony Porcho and Nepa.
Porcho, who starts at linebacker for the Warriors, ran for touchdown runs of 20 and 50 yards in the second half.
But, for a moment in the first quarter, it appeared that Arroyo Grande would continue to be Righetti's bugaboo. James Gilmet caught a 29-yard touchdown pass off a deflection for the Eagles' first score. After a personal foul against Righetti on the point-after try, the Eagles went for an onside kick and recovered the ball at the Righetti 14.
Gilmet hit paydirt again on a 2-yard run to give Arroyo Grande its 14-7 lead. The Warriors then gave the ball right back on a mishandled exchange, but the Righetti defense stiffened up and Arroyo Grande missed a 34-yard field goal try.
The Warriors then marched down the field and scored on Solis' 1-yard run. Colton Theaker hit a 34-yard field to put AG up 17-14.
On Righetti's next possession, coach Tony Payne called a timeout with his team facing a third-and-five at its own 25. The Warriors dialed up a fake sweep quarterback keeper where Giddings gained 46 yards. Solis then capitalized on the big play with another short touchdown run, putting the Warriors ahead 21-17.
The Eagles, which came in averaging less than 50 yards passing per game, then tried to throw the ball downfield in an attempt to score before half, but Righetti's Jake Steels intercepted a Kadin Byrne pass. A decent return gave the Warriors the ball at Arroyo Grande's 14. Giddings scored a few plays later on a wide-open 1-yard run where Arroyo Grande didn't have a defender over the center.
The Warriors led 27-17 at half and the Eagles drove down deep into Righetti territory before Jacob Coronado recovered an Eagle fumble. On the ensuing drive, Nepa did most of the rushing, capping the drive with a 17-yard touchdown run to put the Warriors up 33-17. Porcho then added his two touchdown runs before Arroyo Grande's Byrne scored a late touchdown for the game's final scoring.
What appears to set this Righetti team apart from those of years past is its physical presence. The Warriors out-muscled Arroyo Grande Friday night, running over the Eagles on offense and stuffing them on offense, a combination that rarely happens to the Eagles.
Junior linebacker Joseph Cardenas said that comes from preparation.
"We've been working hard all week. It's Monday conditioning, Tuesday conditioning. Our coaches got us ready," Cardenas said. "It's hard to put into words how hard our defense has been getting progressively better and better every week. Now we've got a bye week to get better for St. Joe's."