It would be easy to dismiss this year’s rivalry game between Atascadero High School and Paso Robles.
After all, the two teams entered Friday’s matchup with a combined 2-16 record and were winless in the Mountain League.
On paper, the game was meaningless. But rivalry games take on a meaning of their own every time they take place.
“It means everything. I think it’s the oldest rivalry in the county,” said Paso Robles coach JR Reynolds. “It’s definitely the most heated.”
The near-capacity crowd at Atascadero Memorial Stadium witnessed one of the most exciting games of the season — featuring some of the best football either side had played all year.
Paso Robles ended the season with a 28-24 victory, overcoming the loss of starting quarterback Hunter Barnhart at the beginning of the third quarter.
Waterman steps up
At the beginning of the year, sophomore Braden Waterman was starting at quarterback for the Bearcats. When Barnhart went down due to injury, that experience proved invaluable.
Penalties nearly derailed the game for Paso Robles. The Bearcats (3-7, 1-3 Mountain League) had multiple drives stall out due to holding calls.
“We felt like if we just stopped having those penalties, we’d be fine and we’d punch it in,” Reynolds said.
Waterman led what proved to be the game-winning drive with 1:05 left in the fourth quarter, connecting with Seth Maldonado for a 36-yard score.
“Barnhart was playing a heck of a game and unfortunately he got hurt,” Reynolds said. “But that’s why you have another guy. ”
Barnhart threw for two scores, a 66-yard strike to Marshall Wiesner — on his first throw of the game — and a 29-yarder to Kaden Gallant.
No answer for Reyes
Paso Robles had no way of slowing down Greyhound running back Stephen Reyes. The senior carried the ball 38 times for 203 yards and three touchdowns.
Despite the reliance on the running game, when it mattered most, Atascadero’s Westley Cooper found success through the air. In the fourth quarter alone, Cooper threw for 106 yards.
He also nearly led the game-winning drive with just seconds left, but was intercepted inside the red zone by Mark Martinez.
The Greyhounds finished the season 0-10 and 0-4 against league opponents.
Scores involving SLO County teams
Mission Prep 42, Orcutt Academy 28
San Luis Obispo 45, Morro Bay 7
Nipomo 56, Templeton 14
Valley Christian 61, Coast Union 29
Central Coast scores
Pioneer Valley 27, Santa Maria 14
St. Joseph 27, Righetti 21
Lompoc 63, Cabrillo 0