Atascadero High School senior Kamren Brown looked like a man on a mission. The senior defensive end needed a big game to slow down the Pioneer Valley offense Friday night and help end the Greyhounds’ four-game losing streak.
He had his best game of the season.
Brown, along with the rest of the Atascadero defense, kept Pioneer Valley quarterback Matthew Garcia running for his life all night and capitalized on a turnover late in the fourth quarter to come away with the 21-7 win.
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The Atascadero defense racked up five sacks on the night. And when they weren’t bringing down Garcia, they were flushing him from the pocket and forcing him to make plays on the run, which he did with some success.
“He was elusive. He moved around a bunch and he was hard to take down for sure because he is big,” Brown said of the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Garcia.
But Brown is bigger at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, with the speed to get around the edge from his defensive end position. Brown had two sacks, including a sack on fourth down in the fourth quarter that put the game away.
“He is a silent assassin. You can hardly get him to say a word, but he is such a leader because he leads by example,” Atascadero head coach Vic Cooper said. “People see his motor and his energy, and they feed off it.”
Senior Paul Garcia, junior Sammy DeRose and senior Wade Pambrun also had sacks in the game. Brown now has three sacks on the season.
“They played phenomenal,” Cooper said of his defense. “(Garcia) made some spectacular plays, but other than that the defense was lights out.”
Garcia was 11-of-19 for 121 yards passing with a touchdown and an interception for Pioneer Valley.
The first three quarters were mostly sloppy and highlighted by defensive plays. The biggest offensive moment came when Atascadero junior Cade Sokolowski hit classmate Kyle Spurgeon for a 48-yard touchdown pass just before halftime to give the Greyhounds a 13-0 lead.
In the second half, Pioneer Valley capitalized on an Atascadero fumble with a Garica touchdown pass to narrow the lead as the third quarter expired. Then came controversy.
Pioneer Valley’s Mick Reyes intercepted a Sokolowski pass, and the Panthers — down 13-7 — had a chance to score a touchdown and take the lead with around five minutes to play. With the ball just outside the Atascadero red zone, running back Emmanuel Alcantar took the handoff and bounced outside. He appeared to be tackled as he fell on an Atascadero player, but the ball popped out at the last moment. Players stopped playing, but there was no whistle, so Atascadero senior cornerback Henry Chance pounced. Chance scooped up the ball and returned it 79 yards for the touchdown with 2:43 left in the game.
Pioneer Valley head coach John Ruiz was livid. The referees talked it over and agreed to go with the call on the field.
Atacadero will have a bye next week before it opens PAC 5 league play against Righetti on Oct. 13. They Greyhounds need the rest. Their senior running back and leading rusher Arik Machado suffered a sprained ankle in the first half and didn’t return to the game. It’s possible he won’t be ready for the Righetti game. Senior running back Kobe Cross played well when Machado went down and finished the game with 13 carries for 42 yards and the game’s first touchdown.