Over the past year-and-a-half, the Paso Robles High football team’s offense has been at its best when Elias Stokes has scored touchdowns.
The Bearcats were at their best Friday night.
Stokes, Paso Robles’ dynamic senior wide receiver, had two first-half TD catches during a 38-25 PAC 7 win over St. Joseph at War Memorial Stadium.
Afterward, the Bearcats (2-3, 1-1) were happy to avoid falling into an 0-2 hole in the league standings.
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“It feels great,” Stokes said. “We’re finally starting to see it all come together. The coaches work really hard with us, and we’re starting to see results.”
Stokes finished with nine receptions for 153 yards.
His biggest play of the night may not have been one that put points on the scoreboard, though.
With the Bearcats’ lead cut to 31-25 and the Knights (2-4, 0-3) holding the momentum, Stokes made a leaping 39-yard catch down the middle of the field, advancing the ball to the St. Joseph 5-yard line with 4 minutes and 22 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
Soon afterward, quarterback Garrett Nelson punched in a 1-yard sneak for the final score of the game.
Last year, Stokes scored 28 TDs on his way to winning the PAC 7 MVP award.
While also playing at defensive back, kick returner and punter, Stokes opened this season splitting time for the first three games at quarterback with Nelson, a junior.
“Whatever the team needs is where I’m going to go,” Stokes said. “Wherever the coaches want, whatever I can contribute to this team.”
Nelson, a varsity newcomer, displayed the improvement he has made recently, going 13-of-22 passing for 224 yards and the two scores during the shootout.
Nelson also rushed for 74 yards and two TDs on 11 carries.
“He’s improving by leaps and bounds,” Paso Robles coach Rich Schimke said. “I said that last week and he did it again (Friday).”
As explosive as Paso Robles’ passing game was Friday (the performance also included a 45-yard catch by receiver Max Blanton), the Bearcats’ running attack was just as impressive.
Colton Madrigal rushed for a career-high 202 yards and a TD on 32 carries.
“Colton Madrigal is an amazing football player,” Stokes said. “He’s got tremendous heart.”
The Bearcats gained 490 yards of total offense and didn’t punt.
Garrett Schasteen capped one Paso Robles drive with a 33-yard field goal.
“One game doesn’t make a season, but if there’s something to build upon, it’s tonight offensively,” Schimke said. “It’s definitely a springboard for the rest of the season.”
While the Bearcats gave up a 225-yard passing night to St. Joseph quarterback Paul Avila, they limited the Knights to 84 rushing yards on 24 carries.
Carson Gorman had three tackles for loss for Paso Robles.
“He stepped up big,” Schimke said. “He made some big hits. That’s what I’m looking for from him, and he made those types of plays.”Wesley Williams ran for a team-best 70 yards on 11 carries for the Knights.
Zak Karsh had three catches for 97 yards and two TDs for St. Joseph, and Chad Brooks added three receptions for 33 yards and a score, plus a 2-point conversion.