Yogi Berra once said “It ain’t over ’till it’s over,” but when it comes to the Northern League title, you can go ahead and start printing the T-shirts.
Mission Prep all but locked up the Northern League title Friday night with a convincing 24-7 win over defending co-champion Nipomo.
For Mission Prep coach Chad Henry and the rest of his team, the win meant more than just a chance to have the first undefeated season in the short, two-year history of the Northern League, it was about proving they were more than just a small school in a big conference.
“There was a lot of talk about ‘you are not playing anybody, you’re playing in a smaller division,’ ” Henry said after the win Friday night.
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But those critics were silenced thanks to the best pure passing quarterback in the league and a ferocious defense.
Mission Prep defensive end Conrad Ochotorena had three sacks against Nipomo and the Royals had two interceptions, one in each half. On offense, Mission Prep came out firing. Quarterback Bryce Fledderman carved up a very good Nipomo secondary for 264 yards and three touchdowns, all of which came in the first half.
When compared with other big-name schools in the area, the offensive performance stacks up nicely. The only two teams to score more points against Nipomo’s defense this season were Atascadero (27) and Arroyo Grande (28). As far as validation goes, Friday night’s win was about as good as it gets.
“If you take our top 15 or 16 kids, they match up against anybody,” Henry said.
He may be right.
With his performance on Friday night, completing 70 percent of his passes and throwing no interceptions, Fledderman showed he can hang with likes of Arroyo Grande’s Sawyer May. In fact, he outperformed May against Nipomo. May passed for 192 yards and one touchdown, completing 50 percent of his passes Oct. 2. But let’s be clear, May has proven to be the most consistent passer on the Central Coast. More on him later.
No one is on the same level as Paso Robles running back Christian Erickson, a man amongst boys, but Mission Prep running back Brayden Corona stacks up nicely against other backs on the Central Coast. Corona has nine touchdowns, the same amount as Erickson, and is a complete back that can make defenders miss and catch the ball out of the backfield. On Friday, he caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from Fledderman. Corona is strikingly similar to Arroyo Grande’s Alex Cecchi in size, playing style and success.
Mission Prep’s receiver corps of Matthew Simmons, Angel Sanchez and the emerging Christian Harvey along with Sal LaCasto at tight end has good size and can create some matchup problems.
With some outstanding talent at the skill positions, it will be interesting to see if Mission Prep can make a deep run come playoff time.
AG looks to secure PAC 5
It’s a game that has been circled on my calender since the start of the season. And on Oct. 30, two PAC 5 powerhouses will square off in Atascadero. If the Eagles can pull off the road win, all they will need to do is beat 2-7 San Luis Obispo in the final game of the season to finish as PAC 5 champs.
Atascadero is a strong team, but a win Friday against Arroyo Grande would still be considered a big upset. And if the past two weeks are any indication, it’s not looking good for the Greyhounds.
Last Friday, Atascadero traveled to Santa Maria and narrowly escaped with a 14-7 win over Righetti. This Friday, Arroyo Grande also traveled to Righetti and beat them 45-0 with all 45 points coming in the first half before coach Tom Goossen called for the second string. The shutout of Righetti was its third straight.
And even if Atascadero shocks the Eagles, they would need to beat rival Paso Robles to finish the season to win the PAC 5 outright.
So how does Atascadero get a win?
Most coaches will say the biggest key to victory is stopping the run, and with Arroyo Grande, that’s certainly the case. Eagles running back Joey DeLaRosa returned to action Friday after sitting out a few weeks with a toe injury and proceeded to score two touchdowns in the first quarter. Goossen also likes to give plenty of touches to Cecchi and Bradley Mickey.
But in reality, you don’t win if you don’t stop May. Camarillo is the only team that was able to get pressure on May all season, getting six sacks in the second half, and the Scorpions were rewarded with a 27-13 win. Camarillo is currently ranked No. 1 in the Southern Section Division Northern and No. 10 in California, according to MaxPreps.com.
When May has time, he is All-World. May has completed over 60 percent of his passes this season for 14 touchdowns and just one interception. Just to reiterate, that’s 126 pass attempts and one pick.
If Atascadero can get pressure on May and run the ball consistently on offense, they have a chance.
▪ This year, it is Mission Prep defensive backs coach Scott Dodge who will have bragging rights. Scott’s older brother Tony is the head coach for Nipomo and not only did his team win, but Scott’s secondary got two interceptions in the game. After Nipomo beat Mission Prep 36-0 last season, the series is tied at 1-1.
▪ Arroyo Grande’s Bradley Mickey got his second pick-six of the season in a win over Righetti on Friday night. He now has 10 touchdowns on the season; six rushing, two receiving and two on defense. Mickey now leads the PAC 5 in scoring.
▪ The Christian Erickson show will resume when Paso Robles travels to Righetti on Friday. Erickson missed the Bearcats last game but still leads the PAC 5 by a long shot with 1,244 rushing yards in eight games.
▪ Santa Maria got its first “real” win of the season with a 31-7 win over Morro Bay. The Pirates are the only team in the three local leagues yet to record a win.