Arroyo Grande High football coaches describe safety Bradley Mickey’s affinity for interceptions in the abstract.
He’s just a good football player, Eagles defensive coordinator Mike Hartman said. He has a gift, Arroyo Grande head coach Tom Goossen said.
Perhaps that special talent is the ability to make himself invisible to quarterbacks.
It didn’t appear as if Righetti quarterback Conor Regan was able to spot Mickey at all in the Eagles’ 30-7 victory at Doug Hitchen Stadium on Friday night. The 5-foot-10, 171-pound junior sat in coverage to pick off three Regan passes, one of four Arroyo Grande interceptions on a night where the defense completely dominated.
“Our coaches, they’re drawing up where to be,” Mickey said. “I just execute. They’re the brains behind it all.
“I was just sitting down, not really moving around too much, just waiting for it, and it came right to me.”
Regan isn’t alone, either. Mickey came into the game tied for eighth in the CIF-Southern Section with five interceptions. The three he added to his season total could end up moving him into the top three. Lake Elsinore Lakeside senior Justin Hall and Ontario Colony junior Khalil Dorsey came into the week tied for the section lead with eight interceptions apiece, according to MaxPreps.com.
“There are some kids who just have an instinct to play the game,” Goossen said. “He works hard, he does all the little things that make a difference, but more importantly, he was given a gift to play this game, and he does it exceptionally well. It doesn’t surprise me what he’s been doing. We’re hoping for more of the same.”
The victory was a decisive statement for Arroyo Grande (6-2, 1-1 PAC 5), which led 30-0 before Righetti (4-4, 1-2 PAC 5) scored its only touchdown in the final seconds. The Eagles were coming off a bye week following a heartbreaking one-point loss to Paso Robles two weeks ago that slipped away after a controversial fourth-quarter turnover.
Arroyo Grande isn’t likely to get the help it needs to get back into the league title chase with two weeks left in the regular season, but the Eagles bounced back to nearly completely shut down a potent Righetti passing attack to prove they could be a playoff contender.
“I would not expect anything less from these kids and how hard they’ve worked,” Goossen said. “Dealing with a staggering loss like that was, you lick your wounds and then you come out again and you get up off the floor and you start the fight all over. Our kids did an exceptional job of that tonight.”
Said Mickey: “It was hard sitting out after that loss, but stuff happens. You’ve just got to learn from it.”
After a slow start by the Arroyo Grande offense, the bounce-back effort began with the defense.
Twice in the first quarter, the Warriors drove into Eagles territory looking to take the first lead of the game.
Once, Righetti was deep in the the red zone. The other time, the Warriors were knocking on the door. In each instance, Mickey stepped right in front a pass intended for Righetti standout receiver Steven Spadarotto and returned it back out past the Eagles’ 20-yard line.
Spadarotto was definitely the focus of the attention.
The senior was coming off a game where he torched Atascadero for 22 catches, 246 yards and two touchdowns through the air. Averaging 121.1 yards per game, Spadarotto was held to four catches for 63 yards. Though both stats were team highs, it was his second-lowest reception and yardage total of the season and was just the second time he was held out of the end zone all season.
“He’s a great player,” Mickey said, “and we knew that they wanted to go to him. We did some things differently to try to take him away, and I think we did a good job of that tonight.”
The squelching was especially evident in the second half. Righetti had just six first downs in the final two quarters, and all but two of those came on the final drive.
Righetti finished with 250 yards of total offense. Regan was 8-of-18 passing for 119 yards. Benny Wilkomm had the fourth interception, running stride for stride with Spadarotto on a deep ball and leaping for the pick. Andy Cooper ran 20 times for 93 yards and scored the Warriors’ touchdown on a 15-yard run.
For the Eagles, Joe DeLaRosa ran 10 times for 65 yards, including touchdown runs of 13 and 1 yards. Sawyer May was 12-of-21 passing for 230 yards with no interceptions and a 15-yard touchdown to Joel Bishop. Cole Ramey made three field goals, connecting from 20, 26 and 27 yards after missing a 36-yard attempt on the opening drive.
Alex Cecchi had a team-leading 90 yards rushing on 16 carries for Arroyo Grande, and Jack Hogeboom caught three passes for 59 yards. Sam Coleman caught three for 53 yards, and Jonah Collett had a 61-yard catch.