Greyhounds dominate San Gabriel 41-0 in the Division 6-A title game
ATASCADERO — The Atascadero Greyhounds are the 6-A State Champions after dismantling San Gabriel High School 41-0 in the championship game at home on Saturday night, Dec. 10. After a full day of rain that continued into the evening, Memorial Stadium’s field more closely resembled a marsh than a football field, but that didn’t stop the Greyhounds from running over, around and through the Matador defense.
The game was never in question as the Hounds jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and went into halftime up 35-0. As a matter of fact, Atascadero’s 41-point victory was the third-largest margin of victory among this year’s 15 State Championship games while the Hounds are the only team to not allow a point (excluding St. John Bosco, who only played one game) in the state playoffs.
Atascadero got the scoring started with a pair of 40-yard plus touchdown runs on their first two drives by senior running back Trey Cooks as it became obvious that the Hounds were much more comfortable in the elements than the traveling Matadors. Atascadero would add two more rushing touchdowns in the half and a defensive score on a fumble return, and the rout was on.
The Atascadero defense put a stranglehold on its opponents during its postseason run, only allowing 21 total points and registering three shutouts in five games against the best the section and the state had to offer. Perhaps even more impressive, Atascadero never allowed a single point in the second half of any of their postseason games.
AHS Athletic Director Sam DeRose is also the architect of the Hounds defense as their defensive coordinator and has been with the Hounds for much of his life. DeRose joined the Hounds for the first time in 1987 and was promoted to defensive coordinator in 1988, after which he helped win four straight CIF Titles from 1993-96. The defensive specialist then took over as the Cal Poly defensive coordinator for two years before becoming the Greyhounds head coach from 1999-2003, and then athletic director in 2004. However, despite all his success, Saturday was the first time he was able to raise a State Championship trophy over his head.
While the Atascadero defense ended the season looking like the 1985 Chicago Bears, it opened the season giving up more than 35 points in four straight games. It was a season of adjustments and that is exactly what DeRose and the defense did game after game.
“We made a few changes in the scheme from the past and there were some growing pains for athletes and staff,” DeRose told the Atascadero News. ”We grew together and the kids took it and ran, doing a phenomenal job. I believe they kept getting better and better each week, confidence elevated, performance and assignment execution. They were scrappy and aggressive and, most importantly, became smart football players.”
Atascadero gave up 20 or more points in their final six regular season games before allowing 21 total in the final five games of the year. However, what made the Hounds defense so special this season was its ability to adapt on the fly, especially at halftime. By the end of the season, the Atascadero defense was swimming in confidence and it showed before the game Saturday night as the Hounds ditched their ceremonial walk to the goalposts in favor of a run due the pure excitement coursing through their veins.
“It was great winning a sectional title, it was very special and I was satisfied. I did not want anything to diminish that accomplishment. The kids wanted to complete the run, which was inspiring.” DeRose explained to the Atascadero News. “This was first for [head coach] Vic [Cooper] and I. We had many on the staff who had never gotten to the CIF final let alone a state playoff. It was gratifying to see.”
Despite the downpour of rain the Greyhound faithful still came out and supported their football team and were treated to a piece of history by the night’s end. Atascadero is one of only a handful of teams in the state that got to end their season with a win and send off its 18 seniors with a smile and nice piece of jewelry. The Hounds will say goodbye to some of their top performers like Cooks, who ran for over 1,700 yards and scored 18 touchdowns; Diego Real, the top tackler on the team with 123; and Celtin Vert, who was instrumental in controlling opposing offensive lines.
The Hounds will need to fill some holes if they want to repeat as champions next season but also return some key players starting with their quarterback Kane Cooks and their top receiver and defensive back Mason Degnan.
Joining the Greyhounds as CIF State Champions this year are St. John Bosco (Open Division, defeated Serra 45-0), Lincoln (1-AA, defeated De Le Salle 33-28), Liberty (1-A, defeated Pittsburg 48-20), Mater Dei (2-AA, defeated McClymonds 26-18), Granite Hills (2-A, defeated San Ramon Valley 31-24), Grant (3-AA, defeated San Jacinto 36-34), Laguna Hills (3-A, defeated Bellermine College Prep 28-27), Escalon (4-AA, defeated Northwood 28-7), San Marin (4-A, defeated Grenada Hills 32-8), Hughson (5-AA, defeated Muir 9-6), Orland (5-A, defeated Shafter 20-7), Classical Academy (6-AA, defeated Santa Teresa 7-0), Pinole Valley (7-AA, defeated Mendota 34-21) and Lincoln (7-A, defeated Crenshaw 54-6).
Photos by Rick Evans / ATN