High School Sports

After an air-it-out season, Atascadero football gets back to running roots in 2017

Atascadero High senior running back Arik Machado. David Middlecamp 8-15-2017
Atascadero High senior running back Arik Machado. David Middlecamp 8-15-2017 dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

This season will be a return to the past for Atascadero High School football.

“You could break out film from 1984, and it would look fairly similar except for the quality of the picture,” Atascadero head coach Vic Cooper said.

Translation: Expect the Greyhounds to run the ball a lot in 2017.

“It was a little different last year throwing the ball so much, but we don’t quite have those explosive guys on the outside,” Cooper said, referring to the departure of big wideout Elijah Cooks and Lucas Sprouse. “We are going to be more of just take the air out of the ball a little bit and play good defense and slow the game down.”

To do so, Atascadero will use a pair of experienced running backs and a strong offensive line to try to get back in the mix for a league title after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2011.

Atascadero at a glance

2016 record: 5-5 overall, 2-2 PAC 5

The Greyhounds offense was solid, but it was the defense that faltered down the stretch. Atascadero gave up 45 points to Arroyo Grande and 42 points to Paso Robles in the final two games of the season.

Key Departures

Carson Rinkenberger (QB, Sr.), Elijah Cooks (QB/TE, Sr.), Lucas Sprouse (CB/WR, Sr.), John-Connor Ruggiero (OL/DL, Sr.)

Rinkenberger and Cooks, who will play for Nevada this fall, were one of the most dangerous combinations on the Central Coast last season, connecting for 12 touchdowns through the air. Sprouse had six touchdowns and was a key member of the secondary, while Ruggiero was a monster on the defensive line.

Key Returners

Arik Machado (RB, Sr.), Kobe Cross (RB, Sr.), Alex Cooper (OL/DL, Sr.), Blake Rose (OL/DL, Sr.)

After starting running back Tysen Delkener went down with an injury early last season, Machado filled in nicely and finished the season with 578 yards (7.4 yards per carry) and six rushing touchdowns. This offseason, he put on 20 pounds of muscle. Cross played well, too, before going down with a concussion. The pair will split carries this season. Cooper and Rose, two All-League members last year, return to anchor the offensive and defensive lines, two groups Vic Cooper calls strengths of the team.

Under The Radar

Kamren Brown (DL/TE, Sr.), Cade VanAllen (QB, Jr.), Kyle Spurgeon (WR/DB, Jr.), Zack Davis (DB/RB, Sr.)

Atascadero expects big things from Brown, both on offense and from the defensive end position after adding 25 pounds to his 6-foot-2 frame. He has high expectations himself.

“Last year I only got .5 sacks,” Brown said. “This year, I am trying to break records.”

VanAllen beat out Cade Sokowlowski to be the starting quarterback and has incredible size (6-foot-7, 192 pounds) as a traditional pocket passer. Spurgeon is expected to be a deep threat at wide receiver, while Davis is one of the leaders of the secondary.

Key Games

Arroyo Grande (Oct. 27), Paso Robles (Nov. 3)

CIF-Southern Section Power Ranking

Division 4, No. 70

Just like Paso Robles, Atascadero moved down from Division 3 to Divison 4 this season.

Atascadero High senior Alex Cooper, son of head coach Vic Cooper, has been surrounded by football his whole life and he's ready to be a leader this season for Greyhounds football.

The Tribune 2017 prep football preview

Over the coming days, The Tribune will roll out its 2017 high school football preview looking at teams, top players and story lines from San Luis Obispo County schools leading to the opening of the season Friday. Find new daily content online at sanluisobispo.com/sports and in the Sports section.

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