High School Sports

Paso Robles clinches outright PAC 7 football title

Paso Robles High’s Jesse Felgenhauer finds some running room in the Bearcats’ 34-7 win over Atascadero on Friday night.
Paso Robles High’s Jesse Felgenhauer finds some running room in the Bearcats’ 34-7 win over Atascadero on Friday night. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

The Paso Robles High football team couldn’t have hoped for much more.

The Bearcats defeated archrival Atascadero 34-7 on Friday night, claiming an outright PAC 7 championship in undefeated fashion, along with the league’s No. 1 CIF-Southern Section Western Division playoff seed.

For Paso Robles, which brought back a majority of its starters from 2009, including seven all-league honorees, the regular-season finale was a complete culmination.

“I’ve done it a long time,” 12th-year Bearcats coach Rich Schimke said, “and when the pieces of the puzzle can come together, there’s a lot of things that need to take place.

“We stayed injury-free, we kept on believing, even with adversity at the beginning of the season, they kept on showing up, and the attitude was great,” Schimke said of his players. “We’re undefeated league champions. What else can you say?”

Playoff draws will be announced by the Southern Section office Sunday morning.

“It’s definitely a great feeling — hard work paying off,” Paso Robles receiver Elias Stokes said. “We’ll see who we have next week. It should be a tough team, so we have a tough road ahead of us.

“Like our motto, we’ve just got to get our next play going,” Stokes said of transitioning from such an emotional night into the postseason. “New memory.”

Stokes was in peak form Friday, catching five passes for 33 yards and a touchdown, and also taking direct snaps for lengthy stretches, rushing for 59 yards and three more scores on 13 carries. His only pass attempt was complete for seven yards.

“I love it. It’s pretty awesome,” Stokes said with a beaming smile of his opportunities in the ‘wildcat’ type of backfield. “I can trust my linemen.”

On the season, the 5-foot-10, 160-pound Stokes, an all-league first-team pick as a sophomore, has 24 all-purpose touchdowns — 15 receiving, six rushing and three on kickoff returns.

For the record, Paso Robles isn’t calling the Stokes backfield anything in particular at the moment, although Atascadero defenders, Stokes said, began to simply shout out the formation as “Stokes.”

Stokes wasn’t the only playmaker for the Bearcats in the rout.

Fellow receiver Aleksander Koch caught four passes for 62 yards, as quarterback Jacob Searcy went 13-of-21 passing for 154 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Running back Jesse Felgenhauer caught two passes for 30 yards and a touchdown.

Defensively, the Bearcats (8-2, 6-0 PAC 7) forced six punts, harassing Atascadero into a 5-for-14 passing night for 44 yards.

Kevan Garcia and Jake Rodriguez each had interceptions for Paso Robles, and David Katz had a sack.

“I’m just proud of my team,” defensive lineman Bo Bonnheim said. “I just can’t believe we did it. I’m so happy.”

Deonte Barnes ran for 79 yards on 11 carries to lead Atascadero, while Tanner Thompson added 60 yards on 11 attempts.

Zac Haskell had an interception for the Greyhounds (8-2, 4-2), who will head into the Western Division playoffs as the league’s No. 2 seed.

After a 36-yard run by Thompson set up a 2-yard scoring rumble by Spencer Ruggles, it was virtually all Paso Robles the rest of the way.

For the Bearcats, who secured their first outright league title since 2005, the win was made even sweeter considering some of the off-the-field obstacles the program faced coming into the season.

Stemming from the state’s budget woes, Paso Robles’ athletic programs across the board recently saw coaching stipends eliminated for assistants.

“I’m just proud of our kids and our staff,” Schimke said. “With all the adversity that we faced coming into this season, we wanted to make the experience the same as it was for the kids who came before them.

“We accomplished that and then some. So I’m thrilled.”

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