Earlier this season, several local PAC 7 football coaches said that in any given week, from top to bottom, any team can win a game.
Still, coming into Friday’s matchup between Atascadero and St. Joseph high schools, probably not many who follow the league closely would have picked the Greyhounds to win.
But as the underdog, and mounting a thrilling fourth-quarter comeback, the Greyhounds (4-4, 2-2 PAC 7) took down the Knights (6-2, 4-1) in thrilling fashion with a 28-24 victory at home.
A raucous homecoming crowd went delirious after Atascadero got the game-winning touchdown on a 25-yard pass from Robbie Berwick to Wayde Vierra with 43 seconds left in the contest.
The Greyhounds then broke up a pass from St. Joseph’s Curry Parham to Ryan Mediano in the end zone from the 20-yard line with four seconds left to seal the deal in the nailbiter.
“That was a huge win,” Vierra said. “It was really exciting. We showed a lot of heart. We were down but stayed calm and knew we had a chance to get it back.”
The Greyhounds were powered by stellar games from Berwick, who passed for 156 yards on 9-for-15 passing and ran for 57 yards, and by running back Izaiah Cooks, their go-to guy on the ground with 111 yards on 29 carries.
“That was the most exciting game I’ve played at Atascadero,” Cooks said. “That was the most exciting game of my life.”
With St. Joseph leading 24-14, an onside kickoff that was recovered by Robbie Hixson with 8:19 in the fourth quarter helped the Greyhounds toward their furious run to end the game.
“That was a pivotal play for us, I thought,” Atascadero coach Vic Cooper said. “Their offense is tough and I thought at that point we didn’t want to give the ball back to them. That was a pivotal play to get the ball back right then.”
Less than a couple of minutes later, Cooks caught a pass from Berwick and weaved his way into the end zone to build the energy for the ultimate game-winner.
At halftime, Atascadero trailed 21-7 as the Knights had two big touchdown plays — a 50-yard run by speedster Scotty Cusack and a 30-yard pass from Parham to Mediano.
Parham threw for 179 yards on 11-for-18 passing and the Greyhounds had trouble all night containing him.
The uphill battle the Greyhounds faced became more challenging after a field goal by Ben Adam with 11:11 left in the fourth put the Knights ahead 24-7. And a fumble on the Knights’ 5-yard line late in the third didn’t help. But the final minutes were when the Greyhounds shifted their game into a higher gear.
Ethan Hicks rammed his way to 57 yards on the night and after a first-half interception, Berwick settled down nicely and tucked the ball under his arm for first down gains in key situations in the second half to go along with accurate passing.
Berwick scrambled and appeared ready to run the ball when he found Vierra open on a post route on the right side. Vierra caught the pass and scooted around the defender for the score that set the crowd on fire with the game-winner.
“I think this puts us in the hunt for playoffs now,” Vierra said. “We still have a lot of work to do, but we’ve helped put ourselves in better position. It’s a great win.”