The stars on a clear Paso Robles night were aligned for a thriller Friday on the final night of the regular season.
And the game certainly did its part to add to the lore of a North County football rivalry.
Atascadero High beat Paso Robles 22-21 in a double-overtime classic to take the PAC 7 League title with an undefeated league record.
The Greyhounds (8-2, 6-0) fought tooth and nail with the Bearcats, who nearly pulled off a feisty come-from-behind upset.
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The Bearcats (7-2, 4-2) came back from a 14-3 lead to tie the game with 43 seconds left in the fourth quarter on a 47-yard pass from Gunnar Griffin to Bailey Gaither followed by a two-point conversion run from Nathanial Harris.
But Greyhounds quarterback Robbie Berwick connected with Nick Ducasse on a 25-yard touchdown pass in the second overtime period.
Then on the two-point conversion, Berwick dumped the ball over the top of a defender on a play action for the one-point victory on a gutsy call by Atascadero coach Vic Cooper.
That sent the Atascadero fans into a frenzy and an on-field celebration that capped off their PAC 7 title over the Bearcats, who entered with a 4-1 record and sought to gain the upper hand as the No. 1 seed from league going into playoffs.
“I’m just so proud of the team and how we came together as a family, as a unit,” Berwick said. “Things got tough, and we made mistakes, but we made the big plays when we had to. We’re going to celebrate this one for a bit and then get ready for playoffs.”
The first half featured tough defense on both sides of the ball. Paso Robles’ Bryce Pasky kicked a 27-yard field goal early in the second quarter. A few minutes later, Ducasse busted loose for a 45-yard run for a score to make it 7-3, the score that held until the half.
In the second half, it appeared the Greyhounds were pulling away with a 14-3 lead and then a drive into the red zone.
But consecutive fumbles set Paso Robles up for another Pasky field goal from 27 yards.
After Gaither’s 47-yard reception led to the 14-14 tie, it was anyone’s to grab in overtime.
Pasky had a chance with a 25-yard field goal attempt in the first overtime, but the kick was low, giving both teams one more crack at it.
Harris — who ran for 141 yards on 29 carries — scored the first double-overtime touchdown and Pasky converted the extra point.
With the momentum working against the Greyhounds, Berwick stepped up as he often has in clutch situations in football and basketball and connected with Ducasse for scoring passes, resulting in jubilation from those clad in orange.
Ducasse, a junior, was hoisted onto his teammates’ shoulders and handed the game ball as the orange faithful chanted “undefeated.”
“This is the best game of my high school career so far,” Ducasse said. “It feels great for us to do it when things looked shaky for awhile there. It’s exciting. Now, we’re looking forward to playoffs.”
Berwick threw for 194 yards on 10-for-15 passing and Ducasse ran for 57 on six carries.
For Paso Robles, Gaither was the go-to guy through the air, logging 120 yards in receptions and making key plays throughout.
Griffin threw for 110 yards on 11-for-32 passing with the touchdown strike down the middle, nailing the speedy Gaither on stride.
The Bearcats will go into the playoffs as the league’s No. 2 seed.
“We played to the best of our abilities,” Paso Robles coach Rich Schimke said. “We can look ourselves in the mirror tonight as winners. We played with a lot of heart and determination.”