There was no uncharacteristic trip-up this year.
After suffering two anomalous losses to Atascadero in each of the past two seasons, the Arroyo Grande High football team beat the Greyhounds for the first time since 2005, winning the PAC 7 opener for both teams Friday night, 35-19.
Instead of rejoicing foremost in ending that losing streak, though, Eagles players and coaches seemed happier simply to start league play 1-0, on the road, no less.
“I think that’s what’s most important, to start off the PAC 7 (schedule) with a win against a great team, a traditional powerhouse,” Eagles coach Tom Goossen said.
In 2009, Arroyo Grande came into the game with only one overall loss but fell 37-14 in the North County, and last year lost the league-opening encounter between the two 18-6 at home. Despite those setbacks, the Eagles made the playoffs in both seasons and made it to the CIF-Southern Section Western Division championship game in 2010.
Even so, “It’s a huge win,” Arroyo Grande multi-purpose star Garrett Owens said. “It’s a big confidence-booster.”
The Eagles led 28-0 with 4 minutes, 39 seconds left in the second quarter after Henry Adelman punched in his fourth short-yardage touchdown run of the half. Adelman scored on runs of 2, 1, 3 and 5 yards all before halftime, capping a series of impressive Arroyo Grande drives.
The Eagles (4-1) opened with a bang, as Gabe Deleon sprinted up midfield and then down the right sideline for a 49-yard run on their first offensive play. Deleon also had a 19-yard catch to the goal line that set up Adelman’s second TD run.
“We feel great about this,” Deleon said. “This win is huge for us, especially because it’s the first league game. We wanted to come out strong.”
Just when it looked like Atascadero might cut into the early lead, Arroyo Grande safety Seth Jacobs, who has scholarship offers from every Pac-12 college except Stanford, USC and Utah, stepped in front of a pass and returned the interception 60 yards to the Atascadero 15-yard line with 5:39 to go before the break. A minute later, Adelman put the Eagles up 28-0.
“You’ve got to take advantage of that,” Goossen said. “I thought we were opportunistic tonight.”
Atascadero (3-2) got on the scoreboard with one second remaining in the first half when sophomore quarterback Robert Berwick found receiver Logan Sprouse on a 10-yard TD pass.
“We played a very, very good first half, until, of course, giving up that last score,” Goossen said, “but that’s going to happen. It’s a quality team, and you don’t expect to be able to stop them all night long.”
A 37-yard interception return for a touchdown by Owens with 6:19 left in the third quarter put Arroyo Grande up 35-6. In film study earlier this week, Owens said, the Eagles observed that in third-and-5 situations, they might see some hitches and outs.
“That’s what I was thinking,” Owens said. “I just figured I would take a chance.”
Berwick then threw a 21-yard TD pass to Sprouse later in the third before running in a 4-yard TD with 5:06 remaining in regulation to provide the final scoring.
Adelman had 12 carries for 46 yards and the four TDs, and Deleon finished with 59 yards on five carries. Matt Willkomm also had an interception for Arroyo Grande.
“I was proud of the way our kids played tonight,” Goossen said. “It was a good one for us.”
Berwick finished 11-of-22 passing for 176 yards and the two TDs with the three interceptions and rushed for 36 yards and the score on seven carries.
“That Berwick kid, a sophomore kid, showed a lot of heart and grit,” Goossen said, calling the 6-foot-4 underclassman, also an all-county basketball player, “something special.”
Sprouse had six catches for 74 yards and the two TDs. Deontae Barnes rushed for 78 yards on 24 attempts for Atascadero.