Carrillo's Atoe makes dramatic return

Posted by Staff Writer Eric Branch:
Baseball has Kirk Gibson’s homer. Basketball has Willis Reed in Game 7 the 1970 NBA Finals. Empire football? Well, Sam Atoe, like Gibson and Reed, made quite a dramatic return from an injury to seal the Maria Carrillo’s 35-25 upset win over Rancho Cotate on Friday night.
Atoe, the Pumas’ star junior running back/linebacker, appeared to suffer a serious ankle injury with about three minutes left in the third quarter and Maria Carrillo leading 28-25. He was attended to on the field for more than five minutes and hobbled to the sideline with assistance.
At that point, the Cougars had nearly wiped out a 28-7 deficit and without Atoe, who rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, the 0-4 Pumas figured to have their hands full staving off another loss.
With Atoe sidelined for three offensive possessions, Carrillo managed one first down. But he returned midway through the fourth quarter and, on his first carry, he ran 34 yards for a game-sealing touchdown with 4:54 left.
“That was just Sam,” Maria Carrillo coach Jay Higgins said. “… He was a little bit sore so we retaped him and he went right back to playing like he did before.”
Atoe had 151 yards on 14 carries and three touchdowns. He also had a touchdown pass and an interception return for a touchdown called back due to penalties.
Atoe’s heroics helped the Pumas (1-4, 1-1 in North Bay League) put the brakes on a miserable start. Carrillo had lost non-league games to Petaluma, Casa Grande and Windsor and had opened the NBL season with a 23-20 upset loss to previously winless Santa Rosa.
“We were definitely not happy about being 0-4,” Higgins said. “We knew we were better than that. But at the same time, you are what you are.”