When the clock finally ran out and the band started playing, the Paso Robles High football team — led with a shimmy-shake by coach Rich Schimke at midfield — danced along with the tune.
There was plenty to celebrate following the Bearcats’ 31-6 win over Righetti (5-4, 2-3 PAC 7) at War Memorial Stadium on Friday.
Paso Robles (7-2, 5-0 PAC 7) clinched one of the league’s two playoff spots with the victory. And no matter what happens in the season finale, the Bearcats will own at least a share of the PAC 7 title.
But one player couldn’t dance with the group, and he might be the key to next week’s showdown with rival Atascadero.
Jacob Searcy passed for 190 yards and four touchdowns, and Elias Stokes caught two of those, upping his season all-purpose touchdown total to 20. But senior running back Jesse Felgenhauer went down with a left ankle injury late in the third quarter, and Paso Robles could go limping into rivalry week at a very important position.
“I hope he’s going to be able to make it next week,” Stokes said. “We’ll see (today) what’s wrong, but that’s a real bummer. Jesse’s one of the big keys to our offense. Him going down is really bad. We couldn’t really do much once he went down.”
Felgenhauer, who walked on his own through the postgame handshake line, said his left foot was initially diagnosed with a high ankle sprain.
He’s confident he will be able to take the field against the Greyhounds. His backups Friday averaged 1.5 yards per carry, while Felgenhauer finished with 92 yards on 13 attempts.
It was the final one, a 26-yarder up the middle with Paso Robles leading 31-0 and only 43 seconds left in the third quarter, where Felgenhauer fumbled the ball away and came up hurt.
“He kind of spun me around and kind of rolled up on my ankle, and I guess the ball popped out,” Felgenhauer said. “I guess I took my attention off holding the ball and maybe thought about my ankle.”
The Bearcats got all four of their touchdown passes with Felgenhauer in the game, and three of those passes were deep balls that ended up at least 27 yards or longer. The opening score was a 60-yard bomb to Mackenna Stuart on Paso Robles’ second play from scrimmage. Stokes hauled in a 27-yarder diving in the back of the end zone in the second quarter. And Searcy hit Aleksander Koch up the sideline from 30 yards out in the third. The deep ball was thrown enough to become the Bearcats’ predictable means of scoring, but the threat of Felgenhauer in the backfield keeps opponents from playing too far away from the line of scrimmage.
“It’s just play calling,” Searcy said. “Our coach does a great job of recognizing their defensive formation. We check out of some plays to go deep. “They put more people in the box when he’s running good. So, it gives us an opportunity to go deep because they stack the box. We recognize that and then go deep.”
Offensively, Righetti got 94 rushing yards and a 1-yard touchdown from running back Dylan Jones, but the Warriors hurt themselves with three interceptions, 70 yards of penalties and five fumbled snaps.
Just as it did in a 40-20 loss to Arroyo Grande two weeks ago, Righetti helped stall its own drives with poor exchanges between the center and quarterback.
Righetti only lost one fumble, a turnover by Jones that ended a promising drive early in the first quarter, but there were four fumbled snaps in the first half alone that resulted in negative yardage.
With the Warriors dispatched, Paso Robles is looking to beat Atascadero for the second straight season. Sole possession of the PAC 7 crown and playoff seeding is on the line.
If the Greyhounds win, the two will share the title and Atascadero will get the league’s top seed.
“We still got next week to play for that number one spot,” Stokes said. “We have to get that. It’s going to be tough next week.”
Felgenhauer certainly won’t miss the game without a fight.
“We’ve been looking for this since eighth grade when we went undefeated,” he said, “and we just wanted to keep it going until we were seniors and live out our legacy.”