With both teams’ playoffs hopes resting in the balance, Atascadero High kicker Blaine Aguiar lined up for a potential game-winning 42-yard field goal with Paso Robles holding a 16-14 lead with two seconds left in the North County PAC 7 matchup Friday night in the final regular season game for both teams.
The kick was short and wide left and the Bearcats triumphantly celebrated on their rival’s field as the Atascadero seniors likely played their final game.
The win clinched fourth place and a likely at-large playoff berth for the Bearcats (6-4, 3-3).
Paso Robles had just taken the lead with 1:10 to go in the game after senior running back Colton Madrigal scored from 3 yards out, but a missed extra-point attempt gave Atascadero the chance to win it with a field goal.
Madrigal finished with 119 yards on 24 carries and a season-saving touchdown. Before the touchdown, the Bearcats had been just 1-for-4 in scoring in the red zone with one field goal, a fumble, and two failed fourth-down conversions.
“All week long, us seniors kept saying, ‘how bad you want it?’ ” Madrigal said. “We just talked about how we would like to keep this season going.”
Paso Robles starting quarterback senior Garrett Nelson was knocked out on a vicious, but legal, blindside blitz that caused an interception by Greyhounds linebacker Hunter Stemper. Nelson was down for several minutes but managed to leave the field under his own power. He was replaced on the final series of the first half by sophomore Gunnar Griffin.
Nelson played the first series of the third quarter, but after a three-and-out, he felt woozy and did not return. His status for a potential playoff game is questionable. Nelson finished 5-for-7 passing with 68 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Paso Robles may have a bright future in Griffin, who led the Bearcats on the go-ahead score. Griffin finished 4-for-9 passing for 34 with and 25 rushing yards to keep the Bearcats in the game.
“Griffin showed resilience coming off the bench,” Paso Robles coach Rich Schimke said. “Griffin and Madrigal leading us to the win gives us a great chance for the playoffs. If not, it’s not a bad way to end the season.”
It was not the way Atascadero (4-6, 2-4) envisioned ending the season. Izaiah Cooks gave the Greyhounds a lead in the third quarter after breaking off a 56-yard touchdown run. Jonathan Torres led Atascadero with 88 yards on 17 carries and a 10-yard second-quarter touchdown.
Atascadero had a chance to force a third-and-long at the 31-yard line with 1:28 left but was called for a critical pass interference penalty to give the Bearcats a first down at the 16. Madrigal scored two plays later for the game-winner.
Before the kickoff, Paso Robles was called for an unsportsmanlike penalty and had to kick off from the 25-yard line. Atascadero kick returner Ryan Lombardi fielded the bouncing ball and appeared to run the kick back for a 68-yard touchdown, but Lombardi had his knee on the ground when he fielded the ball and the officials marked him down on the 32.
With 10 seconds left, Paso Robles sacked Atascadero quarterback Robbie Berwick to push the ball back to the 25-yard line. Berwick had an open receiver in the end zone on the next play, but it was dropped, setting up the field goal. Berwick finished 9-for-17 passing for 95 yards and an interception.
“It was sad to see our season end like that at home,” Atascadero coach Vic Cooper. “Our seniors deserved better for all the hard work they’ve put in over the years.”