|Paso Robles running back Christian Erickson looks for an opening during a counter play to the left side in the 51-33 victory over Bakersfield (Calif.) Frontier, elevating the Bearcats to 2-0 (photo by Lorenzo Reyna).|
Maybe, this back-to-back dominance of two Central Section foes is illustrating this emphatic statement from the office of Paso Robles High football: The Bearcats clearly want in on the Central Section.
Just maybe, PRHS’s brilliance against both Lemoore and Bakersfield (Calif.) Frontier is the kind of statement that Central Section commissioner Jim Crichlow and his office is looking for to solidify that Paso can indeed hang with the best of them north of San Luis Obispo County, especially since Paso reportedly has its name in the ringer for possible Central Section elevation.
Paso’s top locomotive at running back Christian Erickson – who actually owns three victories against 559/661 foes in his three-year varsity career including the 48-30 road upset of Clovis High back in 2014 – denies that his team’s 2-0 start is a message to Crichlow’s office about seeking acceptance into a new playing field.
“Right now, we go by the motto that our coach goes by: One game at a time and just go on to the next game,” Erickson said. “Eventually, if it gets there (the possible move to another section), it gets there.”
But for the writer typing this out, Paso has proven to me that the ‘Cats are indeed Central Section material.
In what has been the most impressive 2-0 start in the northern part of the 805, the Bearcats have buried last season’s Central Section Division II runner-up Lemoore and wore down a traditional playoff contender in Frontier by a combined score of 86-43, highlighted by the recent 51-33 victory against the Titans at Flamson Middle School on Sept. 2, a game that saw Paso outscore Frontier 41-19 in the second half.
And Paso has unleashed its assault on the San Joaquin Valley with an un-fancy offense that opts to avoid gimmicky plays, but instead lines up with three running backs and takes away a defense’s oxygen through dive and blast plays.
Paso’s blue-collar approach has been the identity of Bearcats football for many years, culminating in eight Southern Section titles including one from two seasons ago.
“That’s how Paso is: We’re going to beat you with the run,” the 2017 prospect Erickson said, who currently holds one scholarship offer from Army. “We’re just going to keep pounding and pounding to wear you down.”
With eight reported Southern Section teams lobbying for acceptance into the Central Section, it’s the Bearcats who are clearly showing that they’re ready for the possible shift in realignment.
FORMER CAL/NFL SAFETY LEADING CLOVIS (CALIF.) BUCHANAN UNBEATEN CHARGE
It wasn’t that long ago when Matt Giordano was blowing plays up near the line of scrimmage while leading Buchanan High to the 2000 Valley Championship.
Now, Giordano is unleashing his defenders as head coach of his prep alma mater, helping culminate in an impressive 2-0 start in the 559.
The first-year head coach and journeyman NFL safety has guided Buchanan to victories over highly-ranked Hanford (the 559’s lone state champion from last year) and traditional power Fresno-Bullard to start the year, utilizing an aggressive defense that forces turnovers and causes multiple three-and-outs.
Another man providing an assist for Giordano’s rise as head coach is the current defensive coordinator who once helped coach “Gio” and that Valley championship team on the cross streets of Teague and Minnewawa Avenues: Mike Vogt.
IMG ACADEMY/CENTENNIAL LIVES UP TO HYPE…AND MUCH MORE
Heading into the Sept. 3 showdown at Mission Viejo High, the much anticipated IMG Academy/Corona-Centennial contest had the look of a Southeastern Conference versus Pac-12 clash, with a plethora of football accolades from both teams and future college football talent sprinkled across the field.
The game lived up to expectations…and emerged as an instant classic with the Florida-based IMG Academy using one final big reception from former Calabasas (Calif.) star wideout Brian Hightower with 12 seconds left to lift the Ascenders to the thrilling 50-49 victory.
The 6-foot-3 Hightower caught his final pass on a 38-yard strike from Texas A&M quarterback commit Kellen Mond, who finished with 512 total yards (411 through the air) and five combined touchdowns against last season’s CIF Open Division runner-up and the top team from Southern California in the last two seasons.
Centennial’s contingent didn’t disappoint either, as receiver Xavier Marshall finished with 14 catches, 230 yards and three touchdowns, Miles Reed leading the ground work with 41 carries, 179 yards and three scores and quarterback Tanner McKee erupting for 374 yards through the air.
HIDDEN GEM ALERT: SAN JOAQUIN MEMORIAL SENIOR LEADING 2-0 START
Defense has been the main staple so far for Fresno-San Joaquin Memorial, with the Panthers giving up two touchdowns or less during their 2-0 spark.
The stellar play from 6-foot-3, 245-pound senior Jacob Fleming has been a big reason why.
Fleming has not only averaged 5.5 tackles per game so far, but exploded with a seven tackle, three sack evening against Lemoore in SJM’s 23-15 upset on Sept. 2.
Fleming has operated from the outside of the Panther line, swallowing the pocket with a quick get-off after the ball is snapped and his long arms that gets utilized to force sacks or bad throws.