The Atascadero High football team ended last season on the highest note of any PAC 7 school.
The Greyhounds (6-7 last year) outperformed expectations after finishing fifth in the league by recording upset wins in their first two CIF-Southern Section Northern Division playoff games, topping highly favored Canyon High in the second rounds.
But no other PAC 7 team made it beyond the first round of playoffs.
Atascadero is ranked seventh in the CIF-Southern Section preseason poll for the Northern Division.
“Now that we have the taste of winning in our mouths, we only want it more,” senior offensive lineman Alan Hurst said. “I feel very confident about our team.”
Some of the key returnees include quarterback Robbie Berwick, running back Izaiah Cooks, linebacker Ryan Lombardi, fullback Ethan Hicks, tight end and defensive end Joel Wood and Hurst, who also plays on the defensive line.
“Experience is huge, and we have a lot of experience on our team,” Wood said. “Last year showed we can do it and so now we believe in ourselves even more, so we can go even further this year.”
Atascadero likely will have some new twists offensively with former Atascadero High and Cal Poly head coach Larry Welsh taking on offensive coordinator duties.
Berwick threw for 1,678 yards as a junior, including 10 passing touchdowns and five rushing scores, with 10 interceptions. Junior quarterback Tommy Carr has progressed well in practice.
“We actually have a pretty good quarterback controversy developing,” Atascadero coach Vic Cooper said. “There’s a possibility you could see some stuff with (Carr) out there, too. Rob has the upper hand from the experience of being a (two-year) returning starter, but Tommy brings a lot of things to the table as well. So, we’re looking for ways we can get them both plenty of playing time.”
With the team’s leading rusher last year, Jonathan Torres graduated, Cooks figures to take on a bigger role. Cooks had 811 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior.
“I got second team all-league last year,” Cooks said. “I feel like that was a good accomplishment for a junior. Hopefully I do a lot better this year. I plan to.”
Cooper said every year the Greyhounds are out to win PAC 7 and CIF-Southern Section division titles.
“I think that’s always in our head,” Cooper said. “I think in the community, it’s out there a little more right now and people are talking about it because of that playoff run last year. We welcome that, and look forward to going out and trying to exceed expectations.”