Last season, three teams stood at the top when the PAC 5 football season ended.
Atascadero, Arroyo Grande and Paso Robles highs ended the season in a three-way tie for the PAC 5 title. The Greyhounds earned the league’s No. 1 seed, followed by the Bearcats and the Eagles, but it was Paso Robles that separated itself by capturing the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division title.
Though the rosters for each of the three teams are different, they will again battle it out to stand alone atop the PAC 5.
Arroyo Grande Eagles — 2014 record: 8-2, 3-1 (PAC 5)
The Eagles look to be the odds-on favorites to win the PAC 5 this season. Their advantage is experience. Coach Tom Goossen will have a handful of players back from a team that made it to the Northern Division semifinal before losing in the final minute to Paso Robles, 28-21.
Senior cornerbacks Bradley Mickey and Benny Willkomm, who combined for 17 interceptions last season, will lead the way for a pilfer-happy Eagles defense. On offense, the Eagles return their starting quarterback Sawyer May (junior) and starting running back Alex Cecchi (senior). As a sophomore pro-style passer, May had more than 2,100 yards, 20 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Cecchi led the Eagles with 693 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.
First Game: Arroyo Grande hosts the Lompoc Braves on Friday at 7 p.m.
Atascadero Greyhounds — 2014 record: 8-2, 3-1
Expect more of the same from the Greyhounds — a grind-it-out running game and a solid defense. The Vic Cooper-coached team will have its top two running backs back and the biggest offensive line in the PAC 5.
Senior running back Marc Martin led the PAC 5 in rushing last season despite missing four games because of injury. His backfield teammate, R.J. Reusche, was third in the league in yards. If it weren’t for a question mark at the quarterback spot, the Greyhounds would be easy favorites.
First Game: Atascadero hosts the Morro Bay Pirates on Sept. 4 at 7 p.m.
Paso Robles Bearcats — 2014 record: 9-1, 3-1
The Rich Schimke-led Bearcats will be without graduated stars Bailey Gaither, Josh Oliver and Jonathan Baldwin, who helped lead Paso Robles to its first Southern Section division title since 2000. The Bearcats, however, do return senior quarterback Justin Davis and the second-leading rusher in the PAC 5 last season in Christian Erickson.
The key for Erickson will be staying healthy. He missed six of the team’s 15 games last season, but still rushed for more than 1,300 yards and scored 17 total touchdowns, good enough for second in the PAC 5.
Davis led the PAC 5 in passing yards and touchdowns as a junior with just over 2,600 and 32, respectively. But it will be tough to duplicate those numbers with an inexperienced offensive line, no true No. 1 wide receiver and an injury-shortened offseason.
First Game: Paso Robles hosts the Clovis Cougars on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
San Luis Obispo Tigers — 2014 record, 2-8, 0-4
The Tigers lack what the first three teams on this list don’t — experience. The Tigers lost their leading passer, rusher, receiver and tackler when Sam Thompson and Nate Greenelsh graduated. The Pat Johnston-coached Tigers have a new quarterback in Omeed Djassemi, who played in just three games last season, one of which was one of the team’s two wins.
There are still a lot of unknowns, most notably at running back and wide receiver, heading into the season for SLO. The biggest question is can an inexperienced team hang with the three big guns at the top and end a four-game PAC 5 losing streak. It’s going to be tough.
First Game: San Luis Obispo hosts Santa Ynez on Friday at 7 p.m.
Righetti Warriors — 2014 record, 4-7, 1-3
The Warriors lost five games in a row to end 2014, and they also lost a few good players at graduation. The Ed Herrmann-coached Warriors will be without quarterback Conor Regan, who was third in the PAC 5 in passing yards (1,702). Two quarterbacks will rotate at the position this season.
The Warriors will likely lean on a defense that features three solid seniors — Zach Burg (MLB, DE), Troy Artopoeus (TE, OLB) and Seth Ollice (DE).
Herrmann is still trying to figure out who will replace graduated wide-receiver Steven Spadarotto.
First Game: Righetti begins the season on the road against the Bishop Diego Cardinals on Friday at 7:30 p.m.