Friday night was the first time Atascadero High coach Vic Cooper got to see his trio of potential starting quarterbacks against live action.
After the game, he didn’t offer much insight after his team’s 62-14 win over Morro Bay as to who would be the Greyhounds starter moving forward, but said decision will be made soon.
“All three performed pretty well,” Cooper said. “We will evaluate it on film. Film doesn’t lie.”
Junior passer Carson Rinkenberger got the start, but senior Jeffery Middleton and junior Elijah Cooks also played.
Making the evaluation more difficult for the Greyhounds’ coaching staff was a successful running game led three seniors and a big offensive line. Marc Martin (6 carries, 58 yards, 2 TDs), R.J. Reusche (7 carries, 37 yards 1 TD), and Tannen Soojian (3 carries, 19 yards, 2 TDs) helped Atascadero jump out to a 41-8 halftime lead and didn’t see the field in the second half. The second level of Greyhounds running backs also had success in the second half, leaving little reason to put the ball in the air.
“All of our quarterbacks are phenomenal,” Martin said. “I think all together we are solid with quarterbacks. You can’t really pick one because they all look really good.”
Of the three quarterbacks that could start moving forward, it was Cooks who had the most success. The 6-foot-2 junior rolled out and connected on a 17-yard touchdown pass to Sean Moller toward the end of the first half. In the second half, Cooks showed his strength as he plowed through the rush defense to score a 10-yard run.
Rinkenberger also had just one pass attempt (a 9-yard completion to Reusche), but showed off his legs with rushes of 11 and 17 yards. Middleton did not attempt a pass and had two rushes for 2 yards.
“It’s been great to have some competition,” Cooks said. “It’s fun. You get to compete against some of your best friends.”
But the sample size was small. Atascadero only attempted two passes on the night. Each quarterback is a little different. Middleton offers experience. He was the backup to Tommy Carr during last season’s playoff run. Rinkenberger looks to be the best pure passer and has shown he can run the ball and a team. He was a dual-threat starter on the Atascadero junior varsity team last season and did enough this summer to earn a starting role in the team’s opening game. Cooks is the wild card. He is by far the most physically gifted of the three with a big frame and a big arm, but he’s still raw.
As Atascadero showed Friday night in the nonconference game, with a big offensive line, a handful of skilled runners and a stout defense, they don’t need a quarterback to win the game. But picking the right quarterback could be the difference between winning and losing when the competition increases.
Cooper expects to make the decision soon.
“We will probably have a set starter by next week,” Cooper said.