|Arroyo Grande defenders Brad Mickey (No. 20) and Noah Thinger wrap up Atascadero quarterback Carson Rinkenberger during the Eagles' 24-10 victory over the Greyhounds in a huge PAC-5 showdown (photo by Lorenzo Reyna).|
A white and dark blue defensive avalanche tumbled down on Atascadero in a banner PAC-5 showdown at War Memorial Stadium on Friday, Oct. 30, as Arroyo Grande forced four second half takeaways in the 24-10 victory over the Greyhounds.
The Eagle defense entered their road game featuring an 11-man blizzard who froze any offensive firepower in the last three games, with three consecutive shutouts and only 17 points surrendered in the last 20 quarters of play.
Despite giving up a rushing touchdown early during the opening Atascadero drive that ate up nine minutes and 47 seconds in the first quarter, the Arroyo Grande defense rose up and smothered Atascadero’s high-powered read option offense.
Two-way stud Brad Mickey – doubling as workhorse running back and patrolling safety – sealed the league contest by grabbing an air ball from the sky with less than a minute left.
A rejoiced Mickey sounded relieved that his team survived the Greyhounds’ brute force.
“In league play like this and against Atascadero, it’s always going to be a hard-fought game,” Mickey said. “Every yard you have to earn. Nothing is given. We came into this game knowing that we can’t play relaxed and we came out hard.”
Linebacker/defensive lineman Cole Cunningham started the momentum swing and turnover frenzy for Arroyo Grande. After the Greyhounds pounced on a fumble during the previous play, Cunningham stepped in front of a Carson Rinkenberger pass for the first takeaway of the second half. A trio of Alex Cecchi runs helped lead to a 23-yard field goal and the 17-10 lead.
Then on the next defensive series, Arroyo Grande brought a heavy rush up the middle, sacked Rinkenberger and forced a fumble at the AG 41. That later led to a Mickey 41-yard scoring scamper that saw him run left, cut back to the middle, then accelerate to the end zone.
“We ran that play earlier in the game and they strung it out nicely. But our offensive line made a nice adjustment and really washed them down, which helped the cutback to open up,” Mickey said.
Cecchi was the other two-way Eagle star who picked off a pass, with his takeaway coming at the AHS 5-yard line.
“It was a pretty physical game. The first half was an intense game but in the second half, we grinded it out to win the game,” Cecchi said. “We made the adjustments that we needed to and succeeded. We were in the right place at the right time.”
The Eagles move to 8-1 overall and 3-0 in the PAC-5. A victory over San Luis Obispo on Nov. 6 seals the outright league championship.