There was no mistaking the Atascadero offensive line last season. Averaging close to 300 pounds, the Greyhounds front five towered over most other linemen in the area and helped their running game gain more than 2,600 yards on the ground.
Not this season.
“If we put them all in a huddle, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the linemen and the linebackers,” Atascadero head coach Vic Cooper said at practice this week. “We have a tradition of big linemen, but sometimes big is 220. As long as you come off the ball hard and you are willing to be physical and got a good heart, sometimes that’s all you need.”
Despite having to adjust the game plan to make the most of a smaller offensive line, Atascadero doesn’t plan on changing what it is known for — running the football.
“I’d be surprised if we had a 1,000 yard rusher this year, but we might run for 3,000 yards,” Cooper said.
Atascadero at a glance
2015 record: 8-3 overall, 3-1 PAC 5
Atascadero had an up-and-down season in 2015 and finished in second place in the PAC 5 behind league champion Arroyo Grande, a team the Greyhouds lost to 24-10 at home. Another home loss to St. Joseph (26-16) in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division playoffs ended the season.
Marc Martin (RB/LB), R.J. Reusche (RB), Kevin Blodgett (OL), Brian Woodard (OL), Tannen Soojian (DL/FB)
Martin and Reusche combined for more than 2,200 yards and 20 touchdowns as backs in Atascadero’s power running game last season, while Blodgett and Woodard provided size and experience on the offensive line. Soojian had 82 tackles, 10 for a loss, playing in the middle of the defensive line.
Carson Rinkenberger (QB, Sr.), Elijah Cooks (QB/TE, Sr.), Tysen Delkener (RB/WR/CB, Sr.), Lucas Sprouse (CB/WR, Sr.), John-Connor Ruggiero (OL/DL, Sr.)
Rinkenberger — who expects to throw the ball more than he did last season — is the starting quarterback, but he will share time with the bigger and more athletic Cooks, who will also be a big part of the passing game as a tight end or wideout. Delkener, an exciting athlete at 5-foot-9, will be the featured running back this season to fill the void left by Martin and Reusche.
“We probably didn’t get (Delkener) the ball as many times as we should have last year, but we will definitely take care of that this year,” Cooper said.
Sprouse will again anchor the secondary at safety and corner and will get more looks at wide receiver, while Ruggiero might be the most talented offensive and defense linemen on the inexperience roster.
Under The Radar
Garrett Raminha (TE, Sr.), Riley Mete (DB, Sr.), Cole Ratliff (OL, Sr.)
Raminha is a lanky 6-foot-4 and will cause some match up problems at tight end opposite Cooks. Mete, a special teams player last season, has emerged as the vocal leader at the strong safety spot. Cole Ratliff missed last season with a knee injury and is expected to be the starting center for a completely revamped offensive line.
@Arroyo Grande (Oct. 28), Paso Robles (Nov. 4)
Cooper called the final two games of the regular season a “mini gauntlet,” and he is right. Win both games, and Atascadero will be PAC 5 champions. No easy task. The Greyhounds open the season at home against Foothill (Santa Ana) on Aug. 26.
CIF-SS Power Ranking
Atascadero is ranked last out of 19 teams competing in Division 3 and No. 55 overall in the CIF-Southern Section power rankings.