Because of the taxing role linebacker Seth Jacobs plays on defense for the Arroyo Grande High football team, coach Tom Goossen is choosy about when the offense gets to use the highly recruited senior.
“He’s so valuable to us on defense, we have to be careful,” Goossen said.
“We obviously know Seth can run the ball. It just depends on the game, what the opponent is doing and what Seth is doing. The other thing is we have to make sure that we keep him safe and sound, and when we need to, we can get him the ball.”
The philosophy on calling No. 4’s number Friday night: In case of emergency, break glass.
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With Arroyo Grande needing to complete a comeback against Paso Robles at War Memorial Stadium and with PAC 7 title hopes on the line, Jacobs got his first carries of the game in the fourth quarter, leading the go-ahead scoring drive and then putting the Bearcats away with a 60-yard touchdown run in the Eagles’ 35-17 victory.
“I have to make the most of it just knowing you never know when you’re going to get the ball again,” said Jacobs, who had only 16 carries coming into the game.
With two quick first-quarter scores, Paso Robles (2-5, 1-3 PAC 7) had built a 14-3 lead, but with 121 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries by Jacobs and opportunistic passing from quarterback Brent VanderVeen, Arroyo Grande (8-1, 5-0 PAC 7) clinched at least a share of its first conference title since 2004.
VanderVeen passed for 184 yards on 12-of-21 passing and hit Gabe Deleon for a 15-yard touchdown pass that cut the Bearcats’ lead to 14-10 in the second quarter. VanderVeen later led a last-minute drive that saw Arroyo Grande cut the halftime deficit to one on a 22-yard field goal by Garrett Owens.
Deleon had seven catches for 104 yards, and Owens had three catches for 66 yards, kicked two field goals and made a game-changing interception near the end of the first half. Henry Adelman also rushed for 122 yards on 16 carries.
But Jacobs took over the game.
Starting a drive inside their own 20-yard line, the Eagles had Jacobs account for 61 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown run that, along with a two-point conversion, gave them their first lead of the game at 21-14 early in the fourth.
Paso Robles struck back with a 28-yard field goal by Garrett Schasteen, but on the very next play from scrimmage, Jacobs nearly doubled his yards with a touchdown run from his own 40-yard line with little more than five minutes left in the game.
“I gotta get it done,” said Jacobs, who has reportedly received scholarship offers from almost the entire Pac-12 Conference. “That’s what’s going through my head. It’s win or lose for me. I felt a sense of urgency to carry out my task and do well and had to depend on my teammates to do well, too.”
VanderVeen, who ran 13 times for 47 yards scored on a 1-yard touchdown run for the final score after the Bearcats failed to convert on a fake punt.
After Paso Robles converted on its only two first downs of the first half, the Eagles defense did not allow a third-down conversion on seven attempts in the second half.
Aside from the field-goal drive, the Bearcats offense was stymied.
It started with Owens’ interception. Paso Robles was looking to add to a 14-10 lead at the end of the first half and receive the ball to open the third.
But on second down from the Arroyo Grande 30-yard line, Owens picked off Bearcats quarterback Garrett Nelson, allowing the Eagles to head into the locker room with the momentum.
Paso Robles also stayed away from leading receiver Elias Stokes, the reigning Tribune County Player of the Year.
Stokes was only thrown to twice, and his only reception was wiped away by a penalty against the Bearcats for an illegal man downfield.
“I thought they were going to throw streaks over the top to him, bubble screens,” Owens said of Stokes, who has 24 catches for 320 yards and three touchdowns this season. “I was surprised they didn’t try to get him the ball because he’s a playmaker. I was looking for that competition, but we got the win. That’s what’s really important.”
Stokes’ only yards from scrimmage was a 2-yard loss on the fake punt.
Paso Robles was led by Max Blanton, who had six catches for 115 yards and scored the 53-yard touchdown that put the Bearcats up by two scores in the first quarter. Nelson was 10-of-21 passing for 178 yards and a touchdown.
The loss is a serious blow to Paso Robles’ playoffs hopes. The Bearcats need victories in their final two weeks of the season, matchups against Righetti and Atascadero, to have a chance to finish in the top three in the PAC 7, which receive automatic berths.
“They don’t accept teams with losing records as at-large bids, so yeah, that was our first playoff game,” Paso Robles coach Rich Schimke said. “We’re in the second round next week.”