In a game Arroyo Grande High football coach Tom Goossen called a “war of attrition” and running back Elijah Holt said was “ridiculous,” the Eagles came away with a wild 41-27 win against Atascadero on Friday.
Some of the highlights included:
A 64-yard kickoff return by the Greyhounds’ Izaiah Cooks to help set up an Atascadero touchdown in the third quarter.
A 90-yard touchdown kickoff return by Holt in the fourth quarter, 13 seconds after a 26-yard scoring run by Atascadero quarterback Robbie Berwick.
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Four overall turnovers in the fourth quarter, including opposing team turnovers within eight seconds and 22 seconds of each other in the fourth quarter.
Several big plays, such as touchdown runs by Atascadero of 39 and 47 yards and a touchdown pass of 46 yards for Arroyo Grande.
The action seemed nonstop until the final few minutes of the game when Arroyo Grande controlled the ball and the clock.
And then, for once in a wild stretch of cough-ups by both teams, didn’t turn it over.
“They were very tough,” Goossen said. “It was the kind of game we expected with some hard hitting and great plays. The fumbles out there were because of some great plays.”
The Eagles jumped to a strong start after a long drive to open the game that resulted in a Cole Ramey field goal in the first quarter.
After Atascadero got the ball back, Berwick floated a pass that the Eagles’ Michael Jordano intercepted in Greyhound territory.
A few plays later, Jordano tucked the ball under his arm for a 1-run yard to make it 10-0 with 1:34 left in the first quarter.
It appeared Arroyo Grande may pull away, but Atascadero wasn’t discouraged and stormed back to take the lead by electing to run the ball primarily for much of the rest of the half.
The Greyhounds were bolstered by the darting runs of Jonathan Torres and Cooks, who cut and dashed for 47- and 39-yard runs respectively to give Atascadero a 13-10 lead early in the second quarter.
As Arroyo Grande mounted scoring drives in the second quarter on a Tyler Auerbach 46-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matt Willkomm and a field goal by Ramey, Atascadero was dealt a tough blow when Torres went down with a pulled hamstring.
Helped off the field at halftime, he did not return.
“Obviously, that changed our game plan,” Atascadero coach Vic Cooper said of his star running back. “I think our Izaiah Cooks did a great job handling a lot of the running, and the backups, too, but it would have been a different look to have Cooks and Torres in there at the same time.”
In addition to Torres’ injury, Auerbach also was assisted off the field in the second half with a leg injury.
“You hate to see guys get hurt on either side,” Goossen said.
Without key players on both teams, the excitement in the play reached a fever pitch when Berwick scored on a 26-yard touchdown run for the Greyhounds to tie the score at 27 with 10:15 remaining.
Thirteen seconds passed between Berwick’s run and Holt’s blow-by 90-yard touchdown return on the ensuing kickoff.
Ramey’s extra point gave the Eagles a 34-27 lead.
“I slowed down to see where the blocking was and I saw them coming fast, and one of their guys got hooked, so I just took it to the outside and ran it the rest of the way,” Holt said.
The rest of the game was a flurry of interceptions — one by Morgan Phillips of Atascadero and one by Zack Diaz of Arroyo Grande — as well as fumbles that stalled promising drives on both sides.
“This game was ridiculous,” said Holt, acknowledging he’d never played in a game so frenzied. “We knew they’d come tough, so it’s nice to get this one.”