QB battle in Bearcat country

Paso hoping to mix young core with veteran players

PASO ROBLES — The Paso Robles Bearcats are the reigning champions of the now-defunct PAC 5 and enter this season with their sights set on a Mountain League title. The Bearcats will have to make due without their star player from a year ago, Hunter Barnhart, the sophomore quarterback that took over the starting job in week three last year and led Paso to the PAC 5 title, earning himself the PAC 5 Offensive Player of the Year in the process. Sources tell the Paso Robles Press that last Saturday night Barnhart decided to continue to play baseball at this time and is unsure if he will return to football this season.

With one man stepping away, that means opportunity for others, and the Bearcats now find themselves in the middle of a position battle at the most important position on the field.

“Right now at the quarterback position we’ve got two guys that are battling it out,” head football coach J.R. Reynolds said. “We’ve got a junior, a guy that transferred in, Cris Magalona, and then we’ve got Braden Waterman working there and they are doing a great job.”

The Bearcats will also look to have more stability on the sidelines this year as this will be Reynolds’ first full season as head coach after taking over in week two last year after the former head coach, Larry Grant, and the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District decided to part ways after a 0-2 start. Reynolds was officially named the Bearcats’ head coach on Dec. 13 after serving as the interim for the remainder of last season and kept the coaching staff intact from last year, only bringing coach Dan Loney up from the junior varsity to help with the offensive line. Loney also coached at Atascadero and Templeton and will be a key addition, bringing important knowledge from his years playing in the Arena Football League, where he won three championships in six years

Offensively the Bearcats return both of their receivers from a year ago in Marshall Weisner, who accumulated 303 yards receiving last year, per MaxPreps.com, adding two touchdowns and was selected as a first team all-league selection, and Kaden Gallant, who hauled in 254 yards receiving and a PAC 5 honorable mention.

While Paso Robles returns experienced receivers, questions remain on the offensive line and at running back. Hector Arteaga earned first team all-league honors a year ago as a junior guard and is expected to anchor the offensive line.

“Up front we are young,” Reynolds said. “We are young at the offensive line spot but, you know, Arteaga is back and he is going to kind of be the guy that leads it up front.”

As of this moment, it seems as if the Bearcats will employ a running back by committee until someone takes over the spot and cements themselves as the top option.

“At running back this year, we have a lot of guys and we are hoping that someone kind of takes ownership,” Reynolds said. “But a lot of those guys are guys that are going to play linebacker or DB as well. So it’s a good group of guys — there is some sophomores and a senior in there and things will sort themselves out as long as we have guys working their butt off we will be happy about it.”

The Bearcats were led by their defense last year. They allowed only 12 points per game (PPG) in league and only 16 PPG total (if you exclude their week three matchup with Cajon, who finished as the state runner up in the Division 2-AA which was also Reynolds’ first week as head coach). Even with that game thrown in they still only allowed 19.6 PPG and are younger this year, only returning one all-league player in linebacker Mark Martinez.

“We are young [on defense] but you know they are eager and they are learning it,” Reynolds said. “We’ve got a guy like John Morones who is coming back, he started some games last year. Corbin Payne, as well, started every game last year and is coming back, Mark Martinez, all league linebacker will be back. Garcia is out here as well, so there is some guys back and it’s just trying to mesh with that young core.

The Bearcats start the season with another brutal non-league schedule. Their first game is against Buchanan of Clovis, who were the runner-ups in Division 1 of the Central Section a year ago.

The Paso players will get their first opportunity to hit someone on a different team this Friday when they travel to Nipomo for a scrimmage, kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m.


© 2019-Paso Robles Press

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