The Atascadero Greyhounds hosted their home opener against Morro Bay on Friday night and roared out to a huge 19-0 first-half lead but could not hold it as the Pirates came flying back to win late, 20-19.

Atascadero entered Friday night looking to get their offense on track and, most importantly, earn their first win of the season and their first victory in the Ocean League. While the Greyhounds were not able to hold off a second-half charge from the Pirates, they were able to put points on the board and even reeled off some huge explosive plays through the air thanks to a strong game from junior quarterback Jarren Fischer who finished with 214 yards and two touchdowns on 12-for-18 passing.

Atascadero head coach Vic Cooper talks with his team after taking a timeout

The Hounds came ready to play in front of the home fans and whipped the small crowd into a frenzy when they drove right down the field on their opening possession and punctuated it with a 33-yard touchdown catch and run by running back Isaiah Lucio. The junior running back caught the pass in the flat, turned upfield, and turned on the jets, giving Atascadero their first lead of the 2021 season.

Much of the first half was played between the 20’s as both teams got a feel for their opponents, but the Hounds coaching staff found some matchups they liked in the second quarter and took full advantage of their final two possessions. With just two minutes to go in the half, sophomore running back Cole Tanner took a handoff from Fischer and flew through a gap like he was shot out of a cannon for a 55-yard run that Aiden Lemoine would punch in on the next play.

Atascadero would get the ball back with less than a minute to go in the first half. This time they took to the air as Fischer connected with senior receiver Ajai Daner for a beautiful 30-yard touchdown just over the outstretched fingers of the defender. The Hounds looked to be rolling and went into halftime up 19-0. The Hounds would not score again in the game.

Junior Dustin Illiff runs down a Morro Bay defender to make a tackle.

Morro Bay came out of halftime with something to prove and made some adjustments defensively that caused the Atascadero offense to sputter in the second half. While the Hounds were struggling to string together first downs, the defense held tough but seemed to get fatigued as the game went on.

Suddenly in the fourth quarter, the Morro Bay quarterback found himself with a lot of time to throw the ball and began to pick apart the Atascadero secondary. Morro Bay scored twice on what appeared to be broken plays extended by their athletic quarterback.

The Pirates took a one-point lead with 1:24 seconds to go leaving Atascadero a sliver of hope and a lot of field to cover. Fischer and Daner connected on a few more passes in the hurry-up offense and moved the Greyhounds right down the field and into scoring position. The game came down to fourth and goal from the two-yard line with 6.5 seconds left in the game. Head coach Vic Cooper elected to go for the game-winning field goal, but it never made it to the uprights as it was blocked.

While Atascadero was unable to come away with the victory, there were still bright spots for the team that will now be looking for their first victory this Friday against Nipomo. The Fischer to Daner connection worked well all evening, and those two look to have chemistry in the passing game. Daner finished the night with eight catches for 141 yards and touchdown plus four tackles and a first-quarter interception. Atascadero’s sophomore running back, Tanner, also had another impressive game on the ground, recording 125 yards rushing on 14 carries.

Atascadero’s path to victory only gets harder going forward. Friday night, the Hounds will face 3-1 Nipomo, who beat Morro Bay handily and also defeated Santa Maria. Following their matchup with the Titans, Atascadero will end their Ocean League season with Pioneer Valley, who defeated Mission Prep. The Hounds will then close out their season with the rivalry game against Paso Robles, who is playing in the Mountain League.

Getting through this together, Atascadero