Terrell Watson may have gotten his yards Friday night, but it was the Paso Robles High football team that came up with all the big plays.
The Bearcats claimed six turnovers, and despite scoring just one offensive touchdown during a steady, slight rain, defeated Oxnard 21-6 at War Memorial Stadium to move on to the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Western Division playoffs.
“Defense and special teams,” Paso Robles coach Rich Schimke said. “That was the name of the game tonight. I don’t even think we had 50 yards of offense tonight, and yet we still won. So I’m just really glad we’re moving on. I’m really proud of the boys.”
Watson, the Yellowjackets’ 6-foot-2, 205-pound running back, came into the game leading the state and was fifth in the country in rushing yards with 2,728 on the season.
The senior had a game-best 159 yards and a touchdown on 35 carries against Paso Robles, but it wasn’t enough to overcome an avalanche of game-changing, opportunistic plays by the Bearcats.
Just seven seconds into the contest, Paso Robles scored on a 10-yard fumble return by Adrian Jauregui on the opening kickoff return.
Watson broke free for a 36-yard scoring run midway through the second quarter, but Paso Robles’ Elias Stokes returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards to give the Bearcats a 21-6 lead.
“I don’t know if we stopped him,” Schimke said of Watson, “but we shut him down pretty good. We knew where he was. The kids really bought into the defensive scheme.”
Taking advantage of the slippery conditions, Paso Robles (9-2) finished with five fumble recoveries, and Jake Rodriguez had an interception for the second straight week.
“Defense. Just one word: defense,” Schimke said of the win. “They just stayed with it.
“We did a pretty good job of not turning the ball over, and we capitalized on theirs.”
With the victory, the Bearcats advanced to face either Inglewood or Downey in the quarterfinals. If Inglewood won that matchup, the game would be in Paso Robles because of a predetermined coin flip. If Downey won, the Bearcats would travel.
Bearcats running back Jesse Felgenhauer finished with 65 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries in the win.
Stokes, who increased his overall season touchdown total to 25 (with four of them coming on kickoff returns), also had a 25-yard run and a 31-yard punt return in the first half.
The definition of a workhorse, Watson came into the playoffs with 36 touchdowns on 334 carries. Earlier this year, he even had a 50-carry game.
“We knew they just wanted to hand it off to him,” Bearcats defensive lineman Bo Bonnheim said of the game plan against Watson. “All practice, we just had simple running plays, and we just did it over and over and over, and just got prepared for him running it. That was pretty much the main focus, to stop him.”
Watson, recently the subject of a lengthy feature by ESPN-Los Angeles, had faced one other local team this season, churning out 278 yards — dead-on for his season average — in a 34-27 win over San Luis Obispo. That game had Tigers coach David Kelley simply praising him as “phenomenal.”
The Yellowjackets (8-3) were ranked the highest of any PAC 7 opening-round playoff opponent, but technically finished third in the Pacific View League because of a random tiebreaker, thus becoming a dangerous at-large entry.
“They came into this game putting up 20, 30, 40 points a game all season long,” Bonnheim said. “I really didn’t think we were going to hold them to six. I was so proud of our defense. We worked so hard.”