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Agoura Snaps Paso Robles’ Wishbone, 7-0 : Steussie Leads Defense as Chargers Advance

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

It is not difficult to spot Todd Steussie, Agoura High’s senior defensive lineman. He’s the big guy--6 feet, 6 inches and 230 pounds, by far the biggest Charger--especially after Friday night’s 7-0 win over Paso Robles.

He’s also the guy wearing blue and gold who spent most of the evening in the Bearcats’ backfield. Steussie dismantled Paso Robles’ wishbone offense in the quarterfinals of the Southern Section Division VIII playoffs. The victory sends Agoura (8-3-1) into next week’s semifinal round against Woodbridge, a 34-14 winner over Santa Clara in another quarterfinal.

Paso Robles (8-4), the third-place team from the Los Padres League, averaged nearly 300 yards in offense this season, mostly on the ground. Friday, the Bearcats gained just 163 yards. Friday, they saw Steussie for the first time.

“We had more than our share of opportunities,” Paso Robles Coach Kelley Moore said. “I attribute it all to No. 72, whatever his name is. He kicked our butts up and down the field all night. It was that simple. Other than that, I felt we dominated the game.”

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Uh-huh, and other than Mike Tyson, Michael Spinks dominated that fight.

“I was a little worried about the triple option,” Steussie said afterward as blood trickled from a gash on the bridge of his nose. “I’ve never run up against anything like it in my life. But the team came together and played very well.”

Ray Decker, Agoura’s defensive coordinator, said that his strategy was fairly simple. Each of the 3 linebackers was assigned an option. Steussie moved up and down the line of scrimmage and stuffed anything that came his way.

“Todd played one super game,” Agoura Coach Frank Greminger said. “He forced them to do things they didn’t want to do. He took them out of his game plan.”

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Said Decker: “The wishbone is a hard offense to defense. It’s a high-scoring offense. Steussie just played outstanding.”

Agoura scored the only points of the game when quarterback Josh Smaler rammed into the end zone from 17 yards with 3:49 left in the first quarter. Smaler, only 5-9, 155 pounds, kept the ball on an option to the left and broke several tackles on the way. Todd Cribari added the point-after to give the Chargers the 7-0 lead.

Smaler rushed 4 times in the half for 58 yards, including a 41-yard option keeper that set up the touchdown. He finished with 40 yards rushing after being sacked twice. He completed 8 of 10 passes for 70 yards and did not throw an interception.

Agoura limited Paso Robles to 92 first-half yards--91 on its final drive before the intermission. That drive, which began on the Bearcat 1-yard line, ended in a fumble at the Agoura 8. Linebacker Shane Geringer recovered the loose ball.

Paso Robles moved 61 yards on its first possession of the second half but failed on fourth and 2 from Agoura’s 10 when Clay Baxley was wrapped up a yard short by linebacker Chris Oswald.

Linebacker Zac Miller added another defensive gem for Agoura when, with 6 minutes left, he intercepted a halfback option pass.

Offensively, running back Dave Caramanis had a game-high 65 yards rushing for the Chargers, who gained 223 total yards, just 72 after halftime. The Chargers ventured into Paso Robles territory only twice in the second half. It just seemed to be a game for the defense, which registered its first shutout of the season.

“What a time to get a shutout,” Decker sighed in relief.

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