Atascadero High senior Karson Block ended his MVP speech with the word “fellowship” before walking over to the rest of his ecstatic San Luis Obispo County teammates and hugging Arroyo Grande’s Jordan Harrigan as if the two had been teammates their entire four-year careers.
Fellowship. It’s the first word in Saturday’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ All-Star Football Classic at Santa Ynez; the adopted mantra of the San Luis Obispo squad, and, to a man, the key to getting the area’s first win the game’s five-year history.
“Once we got on the field together, it didn’t matter what happened in the year before,” said Block, who had three sacks and a safety in the 23-13 win. “It was: We’re here to do something we’ve never done before, and that’s to win this game.
“We knew what we had to do to do it, and that’s where fellowship came from. We knew we couldn’t do it as separate teams — Atascadero, Paso — we had to be one SLO County team.”
Plenty of talented seniors suited up since 2011 for San Luis Obispo in this summer showcase, but to the coaches who have been around all five years, the camaraderie and focus of this year’s roster was unmatched.
“Honestly, it was unbelievable,” said former Morro Bay coach and county defensive coordinator Jack Greer, whose defense didn’t allow a touchdown Saturday, forced three turnovers and held Northern Santa Barbara County to just 221 yards of total offense.
“I’ve been with this for five years, and from day one, they threw away any of those built-in natural rivalries and our guys just started really bonding.”
Harrigan, who ran for 179 yards and two scores, admitted the cohesion wasn’t instantaneous.
“It was funny; first practice we were all still separated by school,” he said. “We didn’t really know each other and still didn’t really like each other, but then we all clicked. It all came together and we rallied for the first North County win.”
It was an emotional win on multiple accounts for Harrigan, who delayed what will likely be career-ending shoulder and elbow surgeries to carry the ball 30 times and only lose yardage on one of those rushes.
He also wore No. 17 in honor of longtime teammate and friend Ryan Teixeira, who was named to the all-star team but was recently diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare bone cancer.
“Being best friends with him since I was 9 years old, he’s one of the greatest guys I know — always bringing high spirits for everyone, and he’s a strong kid,” said Harrigan of Teixeira, who was on the sidelines and received a large ovation from the San Luis Obispo bleachers when his name was announced. “It’s been tough, but he’s got a whole battlefield behind him; he’s got people ready to fight with him. He’s a strong kid, and he’s going to be just fine.”
Harrigan was named offensive player of the game for San Luis Obispo while Morro Bay lineman Trajan Beecham took home defensive player of the game honors.
Block was the resounding overall MVP. After co-offensive coordinator Russ Edwards said Block spent all week of practice in the offensive backfield, the Saddleback College-bound defensive end did more of the same once the lights went on.
“I was getting held a few times in the beginning and that was frustrating, but once I got in my groove, I don’t want to sound cocky or anything, but I really did feel like I couldn’t be blocked,” Block said. “I just wanted to keep getting opportunities because I felt I could consistently make big plays, and I’m glad I did what I did and we came out with that win.”
When accepting his award, Block said this was the most fun week of football in his career — words that were immediately met with chants of “fellowship” by his teammates.
“This is going to be something where you find these guys at your 20-year reunion and you’re sitting down saying ‘Hey, remember that time we beat Santa Barbara County for the all-star championship?’” Block said. “It’s one of those memories you’ll never
SAN LUIS OBISPO 23,
NORTHERN SANTA BARBARA 13
Score by quarters
SLO 7 0 7 9 — 23
NSB 0 3 10 0 — 13
SLO — Jordan Harrigan 3 run (Cole Ramey kick), 4:38
NSB — FG, Sal Castro 38, 8:35
SLO — Tommy Carr 1 run (Ramey kick), 5:27
NSB — Chris Barganier 90 kick return (Castro kick), 5:13
NSB — FG, Castro, 1:49
SLO — Harrigan 12 run (Ramey kick), 9:00
SLO — Safety (Derrick Portis tackled in end zone), 3:51
First Downs 18 13
Rush yards 56-310 28-50
Pass yards 53 171
Passes 6-20-0-1 15-24-0-2
Punts-average 4-38.5 3-39
Fumbles-lost 1-1 3-1
Penalties-yards 11-100 7-66
Rushing — SLO: Harrigan 30-179, Carr 8-67, Chris Owens 5-18, Bryson Messer 4-14, Dyllan Smiley 3-(minus-3), Will Unks 2-11, Ethan Hicks 2-3, Cooper Kuhnle 1-14, Christian Hauser 1-7; NSB — Brett Gregory 12-17, Mando Mansera 6-12, Derrick Portis 4-21, Conner Regan 4-(minus-7), Chris Barganier 1-3, Eli Wilkinson 1-4.
Passing — SLO: Carr 1-5-0-1 36, Matt Albright 5-15-0-0 17; NSB — Regan 14-17-0-0 138, Gregory 1-4-0-0 33, Team 0-3-0-2 0.
Receiving — SLO: Brandon Hettenhouser 2-28, Harrigan 1-36, Harrison Labastida 1-8, Scott Rigdon 1-5, Hauser 1-(minus-6); NSB — Barganier 5-77, Steven Spadarotto 3-25, Mansera 2-36, Justin Schnorf 2-13, Portis 2-11, Jake Chaves 1-9.