PASO ROBLES — Last Friday night Atascadero and Paso Robles squared off in a soccer doubleheader at War Memorial Stadium. On top of being the biggest rivalry in the county, the evening of soccer featured two top ten ranked teams in Division 3 of the CIFSS.
Entering the game, Paso Robles men's soccer team was ranked as the No. 2 team in Division and were coming off an overtime tie to Arroyo Grande on Wednesday, 0-0. The Greyhounds were coming into the game following a tough 2-1 loss at the hands of the St. Joseph Knights. On paper, the Bearcats are the much better team and should have made quick work of the Hounds, but rivalry games aren’t played on paper.
The Bearcats controlled the possession to start the first half, but neither team was able to force their style of play on the other. After ten minutes of back and forth play, the first shot was taken. Atascadero’s Andrew Mosqueda found some open space just behind the 18-yard box but sailed the ball over the head of goalkeeper Victor Rodriguez.
A few minutes later, the Bearcats earned a corner kick in the south end zone at War Memorial Stadium. The pass into the box was hit perfectly, the ball bent toward the 18-yard box and was struck swiftly out of the air by charging Bearcat, forward Erick Reyes with a powerful header into the upper right-hand corner of the goal.
After giving up a goal the Greyhounds dominated the possession for the rest of the half but just couldn't capitalize on their opportunities. Their best chance in the first half came with 3:00 minutes left when Benji Garcia found enough open space to get off a shot that ricocheted off Rodriguez out of bounds for a corner. However, the Bearcat defense was able to clear the ball out of the box without giving up another shot.
As the second half clock kept ticking down the intensity of the match rose. Fouls started being called more frequently and players started becoming visibly upset with several of the referee’s calls.
With 24 minutes left in the second half, Atascadero tied up the match on a Garcia goal and kept the pressure on the Bearcats. At the end of regulation, the game was tied at 1-1 and the teams headed into overtime for an instant classic.
The Bearcat’s depth and composure really showed in overtime. Paso controlled the possession and created three scoring opportunities. Kyle Patti and Daniel Zavala each took shots on goal but couldn't find the back of the net.
“I try to be a leader for the team,” Patti said. “I saw that they were slacking and kind of falling apart at the end and I took the authority to try and get in there, bring their heads up, and get the win.”
With six minutes left in the first half of overtime, the Bearcats finally broke through. Javier Solis cut across the goal, received a beautiful pass from Jesus Anguiano, and put it in the back of the net to give Paso the 2-1 lead.
As the ball was coming toward him in the air, Solis thought to himself, “This is my goal, I am going to finish this.”
“And luckily I finished it from a great pass from Javi too,” Solis said. “It felt good to score.”
The second half of overtime saw two yellow cards and some aggressive tackles but no goals. The Bearcats defeated the Greyhounds 2-0.
“It was a good game and I think this was one of the first games that the boys truly played the way they are capable of,” Atascadero Head Coach JT Camp said. “Possessing the ball, winning all the battles out there and playing the way they can. It is not that we didn’t expect it but it is something that we have been waiting to come together.”
The Bearcats are now 10-2-6 on the season and have risen to the No. 1 ranked team in Division 3. However, the Bearcats fell to Righetti on Tuesday 2-0.
The Hounds are currently 2-13-2 and fell to Pioneer Valley 5-2 on Tuesday.