Last year, Paso Robles High’s football team could have folded after a tough overtime loss to Arroyo Grande late in the season.
But the Bearcats pulled together to beat Atascadero 16-14 in the regular-season finale on the road, finishing fourth in the PAC 7.
And then they nearly upset heavy favorite Valencia before losing 43-36 in the first round of the playoffs.
This year, Schimke said last year’s PAC 7 co-champions, Arroyo Grande and St. Joseph, are still the teams to dethrone, but he likes his team’s chances.
“They were the top dogs last year,” Schimke said. “…You aim for a league championship every year you go out.”
Last week, Schimke said he anticipated that junior Gunnar Griffen would be his starting quarterback “if we started today.”
But Schimke said Griffen was in a battle with sophomore Justin Davis for the job.
Griffen completed 10 of 17 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown last season in six games without an interception.
A likely target for the junior quarterback will be senior Bailey Gaither, who racked up 780 receiving yards and eight touchdowns last year.
Gaither was a Tribune all-county first-team selection last season and was used frequently on deep routes.
Schimke, in his 15th year as head coach, didn’t pinpoint any particular offensive style as Saturday’s season opener approaches.
Schimke also said the running back contingent will be made up of a handful of guys and no particular player has emerged as the go-to tailback. Junior Jimmy Pacheco had 177 yards rushing and two touchdowns last season.
Colton Madrigal logged 1,553 rushing yards as a senior in 2012, and the Bearcats will miss his presence on the field.
Schimke emphasized his offensive and defensive linemen are keys to the team’s success.
“As they go, we’re going to go,” Schimke said. “The big guys in the trenches have to get it done.”
Two of those big frames providing protection up front will be right tackle Dorien Banks and right guard Ryan Colvin.
“It’s super important to make sure to get push up on the line, and to make sure we move the ball,” Banks said. “If we don’t do that, we can’t run.”
Colvin said that his offseason weightlifting regimen involved daily workouts. Colvin bench presses a maximum of 365 pounds.
“We’re a huge family, and we push each other every day and give it 110 percent,” Colvin said. “Our work ethic is through the roof.”
This year, as in every year, the players will look forward to the North County matchup against Atascadero on Nov. 8 in Paso Robles.
Banks, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 260 pounds, said he has family members who grew up in Paso Robles and Atascadero and is well aware of the rivalry’s history.
Banks called the annual end of the regular season event “huge.”
“It’s been like that ever since my parents and their parents were playing,” Banks said. “That game is just the best.”