One year ago, Paso Robles used an 18-point dismantling of Central Section power Clovis High to ignite a state playoff run.
Now, the Cougars have aspirations of chasing a state title. But it all starts with clearing the 805 hurdle known as the Paso Robles Bearcats, the team that stunned the Cougars 48-30 at Lamonica Stadium one year ago.
This rematch on the scenic Central Coast for Friday, Aug. 28, will pit the CIF Central Section semifinalist from last year versus the defending CIF Southern Section Northern Division champion.
Here’s a closer look:
ABOUT CLOVIS: The Cougars are entering 2015-16 as one of the heavy favorites to win the Central Section Division I championship. Clovis returns a plethora of stars and national recruits.
J.J. Wills leads the offense at wide receiver. The son of former UCLA running back Shawn Wills currently holds a University of Idaho offer. The returning senior caught seven passes for 148 yards and scored once in last year’s meeting with Paso. Playing opposite of him will be tall target Coltin Velasquez, who’s a 6-foot-2 possession weapon.
Defensively, linebacker Tanner Rice leads the Cougar roar. Rice pummels running backs from his inside linebacker spot. He’s drawn interest from Mountain West, Big Sky, Ivy League and PAC-12 schools.
|Clovis High's Tanner Rice will lead the always hard-nosed Cougar defense into wine country on Aug. 28 as he and CHS take on 805 powerhouse Paso Robles (photo contributed).|
Josh Hokit will see action both ways after leading running back Samir Allen was lost for this game due to a knee injury. The strong safety averaged 6.3 tackles last season and will likely carry the ball for the Clovis ground attack.
ABOUT PASO ROBLES: Gone are Bailey Gaither, Jonathan Baldwin and Josh Oliver; all of whom will now continue their illustrious careers at the NCAA Division I level.
This now means lots of returning junior Christian Erickson and the Bearcat running game. Built like a Central Coast mountain lion at 6-foot-1, 220-pounds, Erickson will look to wear down the Cougar trenches with Paso likely lining up in double tight end and Power-I formations, which was its base offense toward the end of 2014-15. Erickson wasn’t on the field when Paso celebrated its first section title since 2000 because of an injury, but he’s back and ready to take the load.
Matt Keller could become the X-Factor for the Bearcats. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound senior is a ferocious hitter at linebacker. He could move to tight end with Baldwin gone.
KEY MATCHUP: Rice against Erickson. This battle could look like the high school version of Ray Lewis versus John Riggins.
DON'T SLEEP ON: Tyler Collier. The returning junior is a rugged pass blocker and down field blocker at offensive guard. Cougar fans probably remember No. 56 drilling his blocking assignments to the ground last year.
GAME INFORMATION: Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Flamson Middle School in Paso Robles.