That extra week to heal seemed to work wonders for Marc Martin.
Coming off an ankle injury that limited him for three games earlier this year, the Atascadero High junior running back had 166 yards and a touchdown in a victory over Pioneer Valley two weeks ago, his best game of the season to that point, but he still wasn’t feeling exactly right. Then came the Greyhounds’ bye last week.
Now, after a career game in Friday’s 35-21 win over Righetti, Martin knows he’s all the way back.
“I felt strong,” Martin said. “I got a little winded at half, but at halftime I got a little breather and felt strong for the rest of the game.
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“Coming back from an injury, it’s a tough transition, but I think my injury is almost fully healed up.”
Martin rushed 24 times for 258 yards and two touchdowns — all career highs — as Atascadero (6-1, 1-0 PAC 5) overcame a spectacular game by Warriors receiver Steven Spadarotto.
Spadarotto also registered career highs with 22 catches for 246 yards, with touchdown grabs of 7 and 8 yards.
When Atascadero stuffed the run game of Righetti (4-3, 1-1 PAC 5) on the opening pair of Warriors drives, Righetti found Spadarotto early and often. The first 11 completions by quarterback Conor Regan all went to the senior receiver, who had 11 catches for 151 yards by halftime.
By the end of the game, Spadarotto was the only Warriors receiver with more than one catch.
“They just kept looking for me,” Spadarotto said. “They had a really good run defense, so we just tried to exploit their pass defense.
“My quarterback was throwing great balls. I just did what the coaches said, and stuff worked out for me. They kind of kept switching up their defnese, but I could kind of tell what they were running. So, I kept running to the open spots.”
Even when the Greyhounds had ideal coverage on Spadarotto or blanketed him with double coverage, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound receiver jumped above Atascadero defenders or snatched the ball through their hands to make the catch.
At times, Martin and the offense could only watch as Righetti repeatedly found Spadarotto on a variety of curls, outs and screens.
“You’ve just got to keep faith in your offense and your defense,” Martin said. “Whoever’s the better team comes out on top, and that’s how it is.”
Atascadero rose to the top in the second half.
On the strength of a 1-yard touchdown run by Greyhounds quarterback Tommy Carr and a 3-yard run by Martin, Atascadero went into the half tied at 14. The Warriors had scored first on a 1-yard run by Eli Wilkinson in the first quarter and added the 7-yard strike to Spadarotto in the second.
To open the second half, Nick Ducasse burst free on a sweep to run 60 yards for a touchdown, giving the Greyhounds their first lead of the game. When Carr plunged in for his second 1-yard touchdown of the game less than two minutes later, Atascadero made sure it was a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
After the Ducasse touchdown, Righetti was driving in Greyhounds territory when Tony Quintero picked off a Regan pass at his own 30-yard line and returned it all the way to the Warriors’ 26. Martin ran 25 yards on the next play to set up Carr’s touchdown sneak.
Righetti cut the lead to six at 27-21 when Spadarotto made a diving catch near the far right edge of the end zone with 8:46 left in the game, but Martin finished the Warriors off with a 7-yard touchdown run, and Ethan Hicks came up with a deflected pass from Carr on the two-point conversion to stretch Atascadero’s lead to 14 points with 5:22 remaining.
Martin was just too tough for Righetti to bring down.
“We watched him on film, and we knew he was going to have a good game,” Spadarotto said. “We just tried to limit him as much as possible. We could have done a better job, but props to him, he had a good game.
“When I saw he was doing good, I knew I had to step up my game, too.”
Atascadero will have to do just the same in the coming weeks. After road games at San Luis Obispo and Arroyo Grande the next two weeks, the Greyhounds will host Paso Robles in a regular-season finale that could be for the PAC 5 title.
“This was our first league game, and it’s a good opening game for league,” Martin said. “We get to learn off this and come ready for the games that are to come.”