15 points down to a win 29-22
PASO ROBLES — The Paso Robles Bearcats made the trip over the Grade on Friday night in search of not only their first win of the season but also their first points against new Mountain League challenger San Luis Obispo. The Bearcats fell behind early, down 15-0 in the first half, but came charging back in the second half with 22 unanswered points to win 29-22 and move to 1-1 in the league.
Following a tough 44-0 loss in week one to the St. Joseph Knights, Paso Robles entered Friday’s game looking for a fresh start against a team that was young and inexperienced like the Bearcats, who only return two offensive starters this spring. Friday night was the Tigers’ first game of the season, and on their first play connected on a 44-yard touchdown pass and went up 7-0.
The Tigers added a second score on another Darian Mensa touchdown pass, this one only 10-yards to Max Threlkel, in the second quarter after the Bearcats turned it over on their second possession. The fear of another lopsided game crept into the minds of those in crimson as Paso Robles was down 15-0.
In their third offensive possession, the Bearcats drove the ball down the field on the ground using misdirection and power through a mixture of Wing-T and basic power I formations but found themselves behind the sticks in the red zone. On second and third down, PRHS quarterback Travon Bridewell rolled out left and threw passes out of the back of the endzone, bringing up 4th and goal from the 13-yard line.
Trailing 15-0 without a point scored all season, PRHS head coach Matt Carroll dialed up the fabled Statue of Liberty, and the Bearcats executed it to perfection. Sophomore Leo Kemp took the handoff, charged into the endzone, and the visitor’s sideline erupted.
“I knew how one-dimensional we were in our passing game, so I said, ‘Ok, let’s try this.'” Coach Carroll told the Paso Robles Press. “We had been practicing that Statue of Liberty play, and what do you know, we sprint out, we run the Statue of Liberty, and Leo Kemp scores on it. That was really just the offensive line being able to do the things that they do. I am so impressed with how smart they are and how hard they work.”
The Tigers scored on their next possession and took a 22-7 lead into halftime, but it was the last time they would score on Paso Robles. Defensive Coordinator Tim Alvord preached the importance of “doing your job” at halftime, and the defense responded with a shutout in the second half.
Paso Robles came out of the locker room a new team with new life and dominated the Tigers for the final 24 minutes. The Bearcats scored on their first three possessions of the second to take the lead and only stopped on their fourth possession to take a knee.
Paso Robles found their identity Friday night, and it is one of downhill running behind a smart and physical offensive line. The five Bearcat starters on the line are Wesley Bennet at center, Nathan Guerrero and Gavin Hamamoto at guards, and Bastiaan Jaureguy and Dominic Weber playing tackle.
Paso Robles ran for 250 total yards on the evening and very nearly finished with two running backs over the century mark. Kemp, the sophomore, finished with 160 yards and two touchdowns while Jake Morones, a junior, racked up 95-yards and a single touchdown.
However, the clinching score came through the air on a 21-yard strike from Bridewell to tight end Gabriel Tabarez late in the fourth quarter. After pounding the ball for much of the second half, Bridewell faked the handoff, rolled to his right, and hit his tight end, who was sprinting for the pylon.
“We knew the run game was going to open up,” Carroll explained. “We did some things differently that we didn’t do against St. Joe, we knew that was going to happen, but the real difference-maker was our quarterback understanding that sometimes throwing the five-yard out is better than trying to take the deep shot. Sometimes you have to take the candy early to open up a defense.”
Paso Robles scored 22 unanswered points in the second half to come from behind and win 29-22.
Defensively the Bearcats dialed up the pressure late in the game and began tackling much better than in the first half. Linebacker Jacob Lambeth played a fantastic game for PRHS, recording two huge sacks on third down when Paso Robles needed it most.
Paso Robles is now 1-1 on the season and will look for their second win this Friday when they play Righetti in Santa Maria. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.