Some games stand out, even to coaches who’ve already stored up more than a decade of memories.
That’s the kind of game the Paso Robles High football team had Friday night at Doug Hitchen Stadium against Arroyo Grande.
After taking a four-point lead with 4 minutes, 15 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, the Bearcats saw the Eagles march down the field, moving inside the red zone with less than a minute to play.
Then, Paso Robles held its ground, making a dramatic stand from its own 6-yard line to take over on downs and win 14-10 in a clash between PAC 7 contenders, each ranked in the top seven of the CIF-Southern Section Western Division.
“We knew it was going to be epic,” Paso Robles coach Rich Schimke said. “And that was one for the ages.
“The old adage for coaches is that the losses eat you up for an entire week,” said Schimke, in his 12th year, “and with the wins, 10 minutes after the game, you’re already thinking about the next one. This one, this one’s special.”
On third-and-goal, Arroyo Grande quarterback Brent Vanderveen was pressured by Paso Robles’ Devon Lambert, and Kevan Garcia broke up a hurried pass. An ensuing fourth-down pass hit the turf, setting off a celebration so raucous the Bearcats received a sideline warning.
“My hat’s off to our defense,” Schimke said. “Wow. That’s all I can say.”
“I can’t say enough about the defense,” Stokes said. “They played their hearts out. There was a lot of emotion on the field.
“Drive-in and drive-out, that was a great defensive performance.”
Added Bearcats safety Scott Plescia: “It was a great feeling. A great feeling. Everyone executed and flew to the football. It was a perfect goal-line stand.”
The Bearcats (6-2, 4-0) scored the final touchdown on a 1-yard dive over the pile by Stokes. Although the extra-point try failed, the Bearcats benefited from a roughing-the-kicker penalty, and on the second try connected, taking a possible field-goal attempt out of the plans for the Eagles (7-2, 3-2).
Arroyo Grande kicker Garrett Owens, ranked by national kicking guru Chris Sailer as a top-five college prospect in the nation among juniors, had already drilled a 39-yarder with ease earlier in the game.
“You look back,” Schimke said, “and it saved us, that one point. Because they’ve got one of the best kickers in the country.”
After gaining only 37 yards in the first half, Arroyo Grande put up 167 in the second, thanks in large part to the 6-foot-5 Vanderveen, a junior who rushed for 67 yards and a touchdown on 14 keepers after the break.
“We’ve got to make the plays down in the red zone, and we just fell a little bit short there,” Arroyo Grande coach Tom Goossen said.
“We did some good things and made some big plays. When we needed to make the biggest one, we just couldn’t put it in the end zone.”
Of bouncing back from the heartbreaker, Goossen said: “It’s not easy. We were one play away from the result being different. You’ve got to live with that and learn from it.”
Bearcats running back Jesse Felgenhauer had 154 yards on 28 carries.
Stokes finished with seven catches for 90 yards and a touchdown. He also took direct snaps for long stretches, rushing for 56 yards and the final score on nine carries.
Tight end Isaiah Jackson caught five passes for 60 yards, including a 25-yarder to the 3-yard line to set up Stokes’ go-ahead plunge.
Quarterback Jacob Searcy was 16 of 26 for 148 yards with one interception.