At this point in the year, both the Atascadero and Paso Robles High School football teams were playing for pride. That, and the past 100 years of football history between the two schools.
Neither had their seasons go to plan, and Friday’s game provided a respite from an unforgiving year in the final contest of their schedules.
The Bearcats beat the Greyhounds 48-7 at War Memorial Stadium, the fourth straight win in the annual rivalry game.
Last season, the game was decided in the final seconds. This year, the game was all but decided in the first half and yet still had plenty of drama, including a fake punt, long kick returns and turnovers.
“It’s fun,” Paso Robles head coach JR Reynolds said of the rivalry. “The environment’s fun. I mean, Atascadero brings a heck of a crowd, no matter where they’re going. The town came out tonight to support our guys because it’s their last game. So it’s a lot of fun.”
Season of heartbreaks
Each team was more successful than last year, where they combined for a 3-16 record. Atascadero (3-7) lost two starting quarterbacks over the course of the season, with Westley Cooper knocked out week five and Tyler Chapman two weeks later. The injuries derailed any existing rhythm for an offense in the midst of PAC 4 play.
Cooper returned Friday night, scoring the Greyhounds lone touchdown on a sneak up the middle.
For the Bearcats (3-7), they were two 2-point conversions from beating Arroyo Grande and St. Joseph, respectively, in Mountain League play. Instead, they went winless in league and will miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
Even so, they were able to put aside the ups and downs for one more game.
“The seniors kind of let it out tonight and got to enjoy one more win at home,” Reynolds said. “It’s not the ending that they wanted. Obviously, they wanted a postseason run, but it’s a good memory.”
Dynamic ‘one-two punch’
Reynolds has called Gerald Norte his “bell-cow” on offense this season and on Friday night he proved why. The running back had four touchdowns in the first half.
Norte missed all but one game last season due to injury, and injuries struck again this year. Luckily for the Bearcats, they had another senior in Bennie Johnson to step this season.
Johnson had two rushing touchdowns in the second half.
“He’s persevered,” Reynolds said of Norte. “He’s been through so much, with the injury last year and the injury in the preseason. I’m proud of the way he stuck through it, stayed with it.
“Bennie came on when Gerald was down and did a great job filling in. They kind of became a one-two punch that was pretty dynamic there tonight.”
No. 14-seeded Atascadero will play a rematch against No. 3-seeded Redwood of Visalia next week in the opening round of the CIF-Central Section Division 2. No. 12 Nipomo will play at No. 5-seeded Tulare Western. No. 10 Stockdale will play at No. 7 Righetti and No. 6 St. Joseph will play No. 11 Sunnyside.
The lone Central Coast team in Division 1, No. 12 Arroyo Grande will play at No. 5 Clovis. In Division 3, No. 3 San Luis Obispo earned a bye.
In Division 4, No. 3 Templeton will play host to No. 14 Roosevelt and No. 12 Morro Bay will play at No. 5 Cesar Chavez.
No. 11 Mira Monte will play at No. 6 Mission Prep in Division 6.
Other scores from SLO and Northern Santa Barbara county teams
Mission Prep 56, Campbell Hall 29,
San Luis Obispo 53, Morro Bay 14
Templeton 27, Nipomo 16
Santa Maria 10, Pioneer Valley 6
St. Joseph 22, Righetti 7
Orcutt Academy 47, Fresno Christian 46