Now the real season begins. Coaches all over the area will have you believe that every game played so far means nothing, and they’re kind of right.
League play opens Friday for most teams, and playoff dreams will be determined by wins and losses from this point on. But the past can also provide a look into the future, so let’s take a look at the potential fates of teams in the Northern League and the PAC 5 and what got them here.
All Arroyo Grande did was go 5-1 with the second most difficult schedule in the Southern Section Northern Division. Highlight wins included a 34-28 win over Lompoc to open the season and a 41-7 dismantling of St. Joseph’s. The only blemish on the Eagles’ record is the 27-13 loss to Camarillo, the No. 1-ranked team in its division. Arroyo Grande is still the odds on favorite to win the PAC 5.
What’s working: Arroyo Grande (5-1) has the type of balance that would make a scale jealous. On offense, the Eagles average 34 points per game. On defense, the team gives up just 14 points per game. In the passing game, Arroyo Grande averages 180 yards per game. On the ground, 205. The defense is led by linebacker Sam Ness and the secondary has the speed to hang with any wide receiver in the league. The offense has plenty of weapons and is led by sharpshooting quarterback Sawyer May.
What’s not: It’s difficult to find a weakness on such a balanced team, but if you had to pick one it might be the run defense. Twice this season the Eagles have given up over 200 yards rushing which is exactly the type of statistic Atascadero likes to see.
Atascadero is the only team that doesn’t begin league play the following week. The Greyhounds are the pothole on Arroyo Grande’s road to a league title. Atascadero has playmakers in all three phases and no fear.
What’s working: Running back Marc Martin is averaging 100 yards and one touchdown this season and his running mate R.J. Reusche is equally as potent. He’s averaging
6.2 yards per carry. Though banged up, the massive offensive line that clears the way for Martin and Reusche is getting healthier and could be back to full strength when the Greyhounds begin league play Oct. 16 on the road against Righetti.
What’s not: Atascadero (4-1) hasn’t had much success passing the ball, but when you’re averaging 241 yards per game on the ground, who needs to pass? Quarterback Carson Rinkenberger has been extremely efficient, completing more than 60 percent of his passes and throwing no interceptions so far, but he suffered an ankle injury Friday against Pioneer Valley and sat out the second half. Back up Elijah Cooks, who nearly won the starting job in camp, filled in admirably, completing 6 of 8 passes for 79 yards and carrying the ball twice for 56 yards. As the season moves on and defenses stack up against the run, the passing game will become more and more important and, as of right now, it’s unclear if Atascadero will be able to air it out to get a win.
Quick hits: Paso Robles (3-3) doesn’t have the team talent to match up with Arroyo Grande or Atascadero, but they do have the best player in Christian Erickson. The Bearcats have also won three of their past four.
San Luis Obispo (2-4) enters league play on a mini winning streak having defeated Morro Bay and Cabrillo in the past two weeks. The combination of quarterback Omeed Djassemi and wide receiver Delvon Jack is nothing to sleep on.
Righetti (1-4) will struggle to compete in league play.
The favorites to win the Northern League, Nipomo (2-3) and Templeton (4-2), are backing into league play. Nipomo has lost its past three, albeit to stiff competition in Santa Ynez, Atascadero and Arroyo Grande. Templeton has dropped its past two following the tragic injury to Eagles player Isaac Lindsey.
What’s working: Nipomo’s defense has not allowed an opposing team to score more than 28 points this season. Linebacker Terry Wambolt, defensive lineman David Leon and safety Isaac Bausley can lock down any offense. The Titans were the second team to hold Arroyo Grande under 30 points this season.
When Templeton is rolling, it’s because their ground game is flattening defenses. Michael Capelli is averaging about 8 yards per carry, and the ground game should get stronger with the return of junior running back Nate Avery, who was second on the team in rushing last year.
What’s not: Nipomo’s offense and Templeton’s run defense. In three of Templeton’s past four games, they have given up rushing totals of 290, 392 and 293 yards. Nipomo’s offense is averaging under 14 points per game this season.
Quick hits: Mission Prep (3-1) is the X-factor. The Royals have the firepower to contend for a Northern League title, but they haven’t been tested yet. Running back Brayden Corona and quarterback Bryce Fledderman have led the offense to an average of 31 points in the first three games.
Morro Bay (0-6) and Santa Maria (1-4) will struggle. Let’s leave it at that.