If an opening week defeat by the Atascadero High Greyhounds to Clovis North left a bad taste in the team’s mouth, they showed it Friday by storming out to a dominating first half against Morro Bay.
In the second half, the Pirates battled to win a moral victory by keeping the game respectable while eliminating turnovers, which set them back nearly instantly from the start.
The Greyhounds won the contest at Morro Bay 42-25 after leading 35-6 at the half.
Atascadero quarterback Robbie Berwick threw for 120 yards and ran for 81, including a 40-yard scamper in the fourth quarter as the Pirates began to build some momentum back.
A pumped up home crowd came out to watch the first matchup between the teams in nearly a decade.
But their excitement was rudely quashed by an aggressive Greyhound defense that forced two fumbles within a two-minute span and both led to defensive touchdowns and a 21-0 lead with 5:11 left in the first quarter.
Atascadero’s Michael Miller stripped the ball from Morro Bay quarterback Jordan Bray at 7:03 in the first quarter and ran 39 yards into the end zone to make it 14-0.
Then a fumble by Pirates running back Derek Viles on a booming hit was scooped up by Morgan Phillips for 34-yard TD return seemingly moments later leaving the home fans dazed.
“We took advantage of some opportunities with the fumbles that we scored on early,” Atascadero coach Vic Cooper said. “That easily could have been deflating to Morro Bay. But I give them a lot of credit for coming back in the second half and pretty much playing us toe to toe.”
Senior running back Jonathan Torres also was a key factor in the first half for Atascadero, scoring on touchdown runs of 4 and 7 yards.
“Our last game was a big wake-up call,” Torres said. “I think, for our younger guys, it opened their eyes to what we needed to do.”
Morro Bay’s attack was led by Bray, who threw for 129 yards and ran for 64.
Pirates coach Jack Greer said his team was “shellshocked” by the early turnovers and the large deficit but he told them to keep battling at halftime and they responded.
Greer said coaches feared Viles had cracked his ribs after being hit on his first quarter fumble and stayed down on the field for a few minutes.
“We had him checked out and it turned out his ribs were bruised but not cracked,” Greer said. “He really showed courage by going back in and playing hard the rest of the game.”
Viles finished with 50 yards rushing, including a 2-yard touchdown at 2:17 in the second quarter for the Pirates first score.
He was flanked by Tristan Collins’ 54 running yards and a touchdown, and reserve back Logan Gerbracht showed some flash with a 60-yard run in the fourth quarter.
“Our (second string players) did a nice job,” Greer said. “Overall, I think we were able to accomplish some of the things we’ve been working on with our technique. And we battled.”