PASO ROBLES — Paso Robles High School football scored 17 second-half points and hung on for its first win of the season, 17-14, over Bakersfield-Frontier in front of appreciative hometown fans Friday, Aug. 24, at War Memorial Stadium.
“Proud of the all-out effort,” said PRHS coach JR Reynolds. “It was a good night for us. Just proud of the way we battled. They bounced back after a tough game last week.”
The non-league game was scoreless at halftime after a stop-and-start first half from both teams due to turnovers and penalties that saw one player from each team receive an ejection. It was the second game of the season for the squads, the first at home for the Bearcats.
“We had a couple of calls not go our way and were shooting ourselves in the foot,” Reynolds said the first half. “We had good drives going and then we’d find a way to mess it up, but we kept building off of it.”
Paso Robles, buoyed by the return of starting senior lineman — Hector Arteaga and Shane Valentine — got its rushing attack going after the break. Both were not available during week one’s 56-17 loss at Clovis-Buchanan, where the Bearcats finished with only 96 rushing yards.
In addition to taking time off the clock, the hard running of junior Cris Magalona and senior Nathan Garcia allowed sophomore quarterback Braden Waterman to get into a rhythm in the second half.
Smith rushed for 102 yards and one touchdown on 20 carries and Garcia finished with 82 yards and a TD on 14 carries. Paso Robles finished with 195 rushing yards and 140 passing yards.
“We wanted to get the run game going,” Reynolds said. “We struggled to run the ball last week against Buchanan. We said ‘you know what, we are going to set the tone and get some confidence going up front.’”
Garcia, a senior seeing his first action of the season, was also a force on defense from his linebacker spot, accounting for 15 tackles, nine solo, and causing a fumble. Haden Peterson recovered the fumble.
Defensively, the Bearcats also recorded a sack and forced the Titans to turn the ball over on downs three times. Corban Payne notched the sack.
“Our defense did a heck of a job keeping us in it,” Reynolds said.
Waterman, making his second varsity start at QB, completed 16 of 24 passes for 140 yards with one interception. Marshall Wiesner had four catches for 56 yards and Seth Maldonado had six catches for 43 yards.
“The first half was slow, we were moving the ball, but we weren’t finishing,” Waterman said. “But we fixed that in the second half.”
The Bearcats’ (1-1) defense broke up the 0-0 game after pinning the Titans (1-1) at their 18-yard line. Frontier, facing a fourth-and-13, saw the snap get away from the punter and go through the back of the end zone for a safety giving Paso Robles a 2-0 lead with 7 minutes and 36 seconds left in the third quarter.
Energized by the safety, Paso Robles scored touchdowns on its next two possessions and in doing so controlled the ball for all but a couple of minutes of the third quarter.
“We get two points out of it, then we get the ball right back and go and score,” Reynolds said. “That was huge for us, built a little confidence that we needed.”
The Bearcats capped off a 57-yard drive, all coming via the ground game in a wildcat formation, with a 4-yard touchdown run from junior running back Magalona with 3:03 left in the third quarter. Waterman connected with senior wideout and team captain Wiesner on the ensuing 2-point conversion to put the Bearcats up 10-0. Garcia kept the 11-play drive alive with a 10-yard rush on fourth-and-3 from the Titans’ 47.
Paso’s defense put the ball back in the hands of the offense six players later, forcing the Titans to turn the ball over on downs at the PRHS 43 with 1:01 left in the third quarter.
With Waterman back in the shotgun, he marched the Bearcats down the field on a nine-play scoring drive, culminated by a 10-yard rushing TD from Garcia. Waterman was a perfect 3-for-3 on the drive for 48 yards, connecting with Wiesner on passes of nine, 12 and 29 yards.
“We got it going down the field and started making stuff happen,” Waterman said of the drive.
The 29-yard strike to Wiesner erased a second-and-20 from the 37 hole and was followed directly by Garcia’s hard-nosed scoring run. Junior kicker Reese Fay converted the point after and extended the Bearcats’ lead to 17-0 with 9:20 left in the game.
Frontier broke through with passing TDs of 20 and 62 yards in the final quarter. The long scoring bomb pulled the Titans within 17-14 with 3:24 left.
Paso Robles nearly ran out the clock on its next possession, but Frontier forced the Bearcats to punt with :51 left in the contest. Paso’s defense once again held, holding on fourth-and-10 from their 38 with :10 seconds to go.
The Bearcats took a knee and celebrated the first win of their non-league schedule and their first CIF Central Section win. Paso Robles moved out of the Southern Section at the end of the 2017-18 school year.
Reynolds was happy with the poise of his team down the stretch.
“That’s what the preseason is all about, preparing us for the league and postseason,” Reynolds said. “You like to win big, but it’s good to get in these tight games where you got to handle those things, especially early in the year.”
Paso Robles travels to Visalia-El Diamante (0-2) for a non-league game on Aug. 31.
The Miners are led by coach Devin Ramos, who moved from defensive coordinator to interim head coach after long-time coach Mark Rogers retired on Aug. 21, citing health reasons. Rogers, who has coached for 15 years, has Parkinson's disease, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. He led the program from its first season in 2002, winning eight West Yosemite League crowns and two CIF Central Section Division II titles (2007 and 2013).
El Diamante opened the season with blowout losses to to Tulare Western, 48-28, and Tulare Union, 52-0. Union was ranked second in the Central Section and was No. 1 in Div. II while Western was eighth in the section and second in Div. III.
Offensively, the two teams have struggled to put up points in the first half. The Bearcats have scored three points and the Miners have scored seven points in their first two games this season.
PHOTO BY BRIAN WILLIAMS
Paso Robles High School running back Cris Magalona eludes a Bakersfield-Frontier defender in Friday's win at War Memorial Stadium.