Friday, November 30, 2007

Derrick Jasper update

Nope, I haven't spoken with the former Paso Robles High basketball phenom in a while, but a reporter at the Lexington Herald-Leader recently did a story on a recent surgery that's kept him off the court for Kentucky.

You can read it here.

Preseason reports had Jasper working on his outside shot and primed for a breakout season this year. It seemed as though coming back from microfracture surgery in the offseason was more like an afterthought.

But Jasper hasn't played in any of the Wildcats' first five games and appears to have a way to go before returning to the court.

Jasper, perhaps the highest touted basketball player ever to come out of San Luis Obispo County, has had a rough start to his college career. What are your takes on the local hero?

(And don't say you think Jasper is good, but not as good as the All-Los Padres League football team. We're planning on running the all-league teams for every league and sport along with the All-County girls volleyball stuff later next week.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hoop it here?

One of the recent posters on the previous blog, which is up over 125 comments now, is talking about looking ahead to next football season. But "anonymous 8:42" (Hey! I thought you guys and girls were going to stick with names?!) is not alone.

You all seem interested in next season already. But here's my question: Is anyone sticking around to talk basketball?

The Tribune's high school basketball preview stories were published in Thursday's paper, and I'm spending all day Thursday at Morro Bay's Harding Invitational Tournament.

I know the previews did not go very in-depth into all of the local teams, but that's more of a staffing challenge than lazy reporting by yours truly. Feel free to send me an e-mail if you have any specific questions or concerns on that front.

I'm also planning a more thorough league preview once the teams get ready to enter their respective conference play and I have seen all of them in person. It'll be similar to the midseason review we ran last year.

Anywho, I'm gauging the basketball interest. Capt. of Templeton Injured, it seems like you've got much to cheer about with Michael Hattar. And Logan Budd disciples in Morro Bay can shift their hopes over to Dylan Royer. PAC 7 teams look like they'll have a tough time with Righetti, but there's plenty of intrigue there, too.

Will Paso Robles make a comeback under Scott Larson? Can Arroyo Grande carry over last season's playoff success with composed-beyond-his-years sophomore center Tanner Hinek? What direction does San Luis Obispo go in the post-Conner Reese era? And how will Atascadero and Nipomo rebound after losing a couple of great scorers?

Mission Prep still has plenty left in the cupboard in its second year without Tom Mott. The Christmas Classic looks to be top notch. And I have a feeling there might be plenty of parity in girls basketball.

So what do you say? Can we talk some hoop?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Picking the All-County team

I can't say for sure what it was this year, but picking my second Tribune All-County Football Team was tough — much harder than last year.

Before I go into which spots seemed the most difficult, let me break down how these things get worked out.

First, I'll look make a gut-feeling team based on who played the best in games that I covered or otherwise saw in person. I tried to see every team at least once.

Second, I'll check out statistical leaders in rushing, passing and receiving yards, quarterback rating, tackles, sacks and interceptions. Then I'll make a strictly statistical team.

Third, I put out calls to every county coach (I wish I had the time to reach out to Santa Maria teams like Righetti and St. Joseph, but that's a luxury I couldn't afford). I listen to each coach's nominations of his own players — and especially to their evaluations of opponents — to form an all-coach team.

Then I'll meld the "stats team" with the "coach team" and use the "gut team" as a kind of tiebreaker if I'm having trouble.

Hope that makes sense.

Well, it was especially difficult to rank the three quarterbacks after Morro Bay's Logan Budd. All three candidates — Mason Sperakos of Nipomo, Davey Schultz of San Luis Obispo and Dylan Morrow of Mission Prep — were penciled in as a first-teamer on at least one rough draft.

Deciding which would end up as the second team guy and the other as an honorable mention was one of the tougher decisions I had to make this year.

In the end, I went with Sperakos No. 1 for having a good yardage total, a good efficiency rating and for leading Nipomo to its first playoff berth in program history. Morrow was second because of a stellar touchdown total and value to his team, which was eliminated from the playoffs when he went out with injury. Schultz, though a front-runner for first-team recognition, made honorable mention. He had a great yardage total, but his efficiency and interception total hurt.

I also shuffled around the first- and second-team receivers and running backs a bit. I even added an official fullback slot to help ease the decisions. But linebacker was particularly troubling this year, too.

With his statistics and athleticism, SLO's Zack Thorne was a lock. After that, it was tough to slot the rest of the candidates in the best order.

In any event, a lot of time and energy went into researching and selecting this year's team. I don't expect everybody to be happy.

But here's the best part: If you aren't happy, you can be heard on this blog. Let me know who I missed or what you would have done differently.

On a side note, I really appreciate everybody's comments. This blog was given an intra-company award this month mostly because of the high volume of Web traffic and the interaction from readers.

You readers, posters and poll-voters have made this The Tribune's most watched blog, and I'd love to see the interest continue into basketball season.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Half empty or half full? You decide

Friday definitely was a feel-good day for San Luis Obispo County football fans.

All three of the county's high school football teams that hosted first round playoff matches Friday night won.

In some pretty impactful victories for their programs Atascadero, Morro Bay and Paso Robles all move on to the second round.

Atascadero and Paso Robles won playoff games for the first time in more than a few years, and the Greyhounds became the first PAC 5 or PAC 7 first-place seed to win in the first round. For Morro Bay, the win continued an undefeated season that gets more special each week.

On the flip side, the three road playoff teams had their seasons end with losses. San Luis Obispo, Nipomo and North County Christian are playing basketball.

Nipomo had a chance to join the group by winning its first playoff game in program history but lost by a field goal in overtime. North County Christian was playing for a chance to host an 8-man Division II semifinal but fell by 12.

Both teams had a chance to continue some feel good stories but fell short.

San Luis Obispo was up against a powerhouse, and few can blame them for a 27-7 loss to No. 1 Northern Division seed St. Bonaventure.

But what a special weekend it would have been if any five of the six teams had won. Nipomo almost pulled it off. North County Christian was close.

Sure, it was a great Friday for Atascadero, Morro Bay and Paso Robles. But is anyone else lamenting the missed opportunities of the other teams?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Don't call me a jinx, but...

Yes, the story in today's Tribune is true.

The PAC 5/7 football champion in each of the past five years has been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

I didn't really have the space to go year-by-year through the history in the paper, so I bring it to you here in reverse chronological order.

2006 — Atascadero, which finished 9-1 and won it’s first title since 1997, got upset 34-27 at home by a tough Saugus team that fell to division title runner-up Moorpark 56-27 in the second round.

Second-place San Luis Obispo, which lost 42-13 to Atascadero that year, drew Dos Pueblos, a team the Tigers beat 34-14 in week 1, in the first round. SLO won 21-20 and lost 21-10 to Westlake in the second round.

2005 — Paso Robles won the PAC 5 at 6-5 (4-0 PAC 7) but lost to Newbury Park 39-36 in the first round and would have had to face eventual division IV champ St. Bonaventure in the second.

Second-place Arroyo Grande beat Santa Monica 27-10 in the first round and fell to runner up Moorpark 26-0 in the second.

2004 — PAC 5 champion Arroyo Grande was upended in the first round by Thousand Oaks 38-31 while second-place San Luis Obispo made a run to the semifinals by beating Camarillo 28-21 and Royal 45-21 before falling to eventual champion St. Bonaventure 42-14.

2003 — In a similar finish to 2004, PAC 5 champ Arroyo Grande lost in the first round 20-7 to Moorpark, and runner-up San Luis Obispo beat North Torrance 44-0 in the first before losing in the second round.

2002 — There was a three-way tie for first between San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles and Righetti. San Luis Obispo got the best seed and was beat 7-3 bv San Marcos in the first round. Paso Robles was second and beat Santa Monica 42-8 before losing 36-29 to eventual champion Westlake in the second round.

Which idiom will hold true? "Never bet against the streak" or "Records are made to be broken"?

I vote for this one (in case any fans feel like I'm bringing on the bad luck): "Don't shoot the messenger."

Monday, November 12, 2007

County Player of the Year

In response to a couple of the commenters, it's never too early to start thinking about player of the year candidates.

I put up a new poll so readers can vote on their pick.

So cast your votes there. If there's anyone I left out, let me know on the comments. And also, please give your votes for All-County first- and second-teamers.

I know playoffs are just starting for the big two leagues, but The Tribune's policy the past few years has been to get the All-County stuff out on Thanksgiving, which is fast approaching. Don't wait until it's too late to get your input heard.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

And that game was good

This blog was just as much a part of the hype machine for the Atascadero-Paso Robles game as any other news medium. And the buildup was reaching biblical proportions.

But can anyone who was there — no matter which side of War Memorial Stadium you sat on — tell me that the 24-21 Greyhounds win did not live up to every expectation?

It's instantly one of the top three high school football games I've ever seen.

The win was a magical moment for Atascadero. The celebration was intense. The print reporters and the television guys were scrambling for interviews on tiptoes trying to recognize faces in a sea of confusion.

Imagine my face when Greyhounds quarterback Steven Manier walks straight out of a television interview and says this to me:

"You went with the Bearcats," Manier said — only half joking and half expecting me to go jump in a lake. "I saw that."

(Who says kids don't read these days?)

Yeah, I thought Paso Robles would win. The Bearcats had a good shot, too. You have to admire some of Paso Robles coach Rich Schimke's guts. He coaches high school football like the rest of us play Madden.

But there's also something special going on in A-town. Vic Cooper has built team strength, unity and morale. The kids seem humble, motivated and hard-working.

Picking against the Greyhounds never diminished that. And anyone who was there to see the win witnessed the momentum the Atascadero program has.

The next step for the Greyhounds, or any of the other playoff-bound teams for that matter, is to translate their success into the postseason.

It's been a while, SLO County.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Proggin' with Scroggin

You know, Proggin'. As in prognosticating.

Yeah, I know I added an extra "g" — but it's funny though, right?

OK, maybe not. It worked with bloggin'. Hey, Scrog was born to blog.

I'm also 13-5 in two weeks of picking high school football winners. Perhaps proggin' might also be my game.

To hear my picks against the spread FREE on a recorded message call (805) 781-... Kidding. And for the record, I admonish gambling of any sort.

To the anonymous poster that asked about the CIF-Southern Section's size. I put in an e-mail to the state office and hope to have some feedback soon.

To atown!! and bearcat101: On with the picks and a little of my opinion on the Paso Robles-Atascadero game.

I'm going with Paso Robles — I picked the Bearcats at the beginning of the season because it looked like they had more experienced skill players back from the year before. Though Atascadero looks to have more than capably filled a lot of the holes made by graduating seniors, little has happened this season to prove one team is especially better than the other.

Both teams have had a few ugly moments. Both have looked utterly dominant as well.

Honestly, the game might be too close to call, but since I have to pick one, I'll go with my initial selection, Paso Robles.

That doesn't mean the Greyhounds are worthless. I could easily see Atascadero winning the game. Here's how I see either team running away with it.

For Atascadero to win: The Greyhounds will have to be able to run the ball FOR SCORES against the Bearcats defense. Long drives and time off the clock means less without getting the ball in the end zone. See: Atascadero's game against San Luis Obispo. On defense, the Greyhounds will have to rattle cucumber cool sophomore QB Thomas Bernal somehow. He passed at will against Arroyo Grande and ran at will against the Tigers. Atascadero might have the defense to limit him from doing both. As long as they keep Bernal, Nathan Nelson and Co. from rattling off quick scores, the Greyhounds have a good shot at winning.

For Paso Robles to win: The Bearcats will have to score early and often. If they can get a mutli-score lead, they can get the Greyhounds into passing situations — where they've looked the least comfortable this season. On defense, Paso Robles has to bend but not break. They can give up rushing yards, but they can't let Nick Tenhaeff break free for 30-plus-yard touchdown runs. The Bearcats also have to be able to pass and run. Atascadero might be the best defensive team Paso Robles has played all season. The Bearcats won't be able to be one-dimensional.

Of course, none of that stuff could happen. Or we could get a mixed bag and someone wins off a last-second hail Mary or — don't cringe to remember this Greyhounds fans — a non-called knee touching down at the end zone on a kickoff that gets returned for a touchdown.

I'm rooting for neither team, but a close game would be a lot more fun to cover.

As for the rest of the games: I'm going with San Luis Obispo over Arroyo Grande, Morro Bay over Santa Ynez, Templeton over Santa Maria and St. Joseph over Nipomo. And I'll go out on a limb and predict both Coast Union and North County Christian will win first round playoff matches on the road.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Paso poll power

Tribune file photo by Joe Johnston

The who's-going-farthest-in-the-playoffs poll closed yesterday, and you can see the results.

With 42 percent of the votes, Paso Robles is your most likely team to make a deep postseason run. The Bearcats were neck and neck with Atascadero for the first week of the poll, but voting for the Greyhounds seemed to cool off with the loss to Righetti.

"Other" also got a huge show of support. Most specified others votes went to San Luis Obispo, who can lock up the PAC 7's final Northern Division playoff spot with a win over Arroyo Grande — the team to get the second most "other" votes — this week.

A Tigers loss puts A.G. in, and Eagles boosters have already conjured memories of when they won a Division III section title as the No. 16 seed in 1997.

Since having clinched its first playoff berth in program history, Nipomo got a couple of "other" votes as did Mission Prep and Templeton — two teams that have already been eliminated from the postseason.

But the big understatement was Morro Bay's lack of support. The Pirates are still ranked No. 1 in the section, and the numbers say they'll make a deep run.

I guess Morro Bay fans were too busy flooding our phone lines last week (when we accidentally called them "Eagles" in a headline. oops.) to go online and vote.

But enough about the playoffs, let's turn our attention to rivalry week!