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FOOTBALL PREVIEW/PICK: Cooper's Granite Bay Grizzlies happy to practice on Thanksgiving in preparation for Tracy

By: Ike Dodson■of the Roseville Press Tribune
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Tracy (9-3) at Granite Bay (9-3)

When: Friday, Nov. 28, 7 p.m.

Where: Granite Bay

History: First meeting

On Tracy: Tracy has played one of the toughest schedules in recent school history, perhaps a big reason why the battle-tested Bulldogs beat Jesuit 48-38 last week. Tracy has a powerful offense that is tough to scheme against. Dual threat quarterback Michael Brown leads the way here.

On Granite Bay: Granite Bay is not the same team that folded against Del Oro in the regular season finale. Napa was tough and talented, but outplayed in every facet of the game last week. The Grizzlies have a lock down defense and the offensive talent to score when they must. It seems that a different star emerges each week on this team.

Prediction: Tracy is no joke, but Granite Bay has the defense to win field position and create turnovers. This game will be won in the trenches.

Final: Granite Bay 38, Tracy 28

 

Last week’s pick record: 1-0

2014 record: 36-15

The most successful prep football coaches will make no Pilgrim’s progress this week.

A team that wins two Sac-Joaquin Section playoff games is still alive by the 13th week of the season, and therefore practices on Thanksgiving Day.

Granite Bay coach Ernie Cooper, who prepares his team this week for Friday’s D1 semifinal showdown with visiting Tracy, has spent 14 of the last 16 years practicing on Thanksgiving.

“I was telling the players, ‘You screwed up another Thanksgiving week for me,’” Cooper said with a laugh. “I was very proud because that is one heck of a run, 16 years of playoffs and 14 all the way to Thanksgiving week.”

The full week of practice is a necessity, especially with Tracy looming in the semifinals. The Bulldogs commanded the respect of coach Cooper after a 48-38 win at Jesuit last week.

“Tracy did a great job on a wet and cold Saturday afternoon,” Cooper said. “They played lights out and were very impressive.

“To play like that in bad weather on a Saturday afternoon when they are a Friday night team like us… I was so impressed. They have what it takes.”

Cooper said Tracy runs a powerful option offense typically likened to that of the Naval Academy.

The offense centralizes around 5 foot, 11 inch, 175-pound senior quarterback Michael Brown, who threw three touchdowns and ran for 85 yards a week ago. The team also leans on fullback Nate Jones (5-8, 190), who ran for 145 yards and two scores against Jesuit to eclipse the 100-yard mark for the fifth consecutive week.

“Their fullback (Jones), he’s the man,” Cooper said. “If you don’t stop him, you will never see the ball because he can grind it.”

The style of offense is an interesting matchup for a Granite Bay defense that has allowed an average of less than 15 points for the seven games that followed their defeat to top-seeded Folsom.

It’s tough to game plan better than Granite Bay. The Grizzlies are meticulous in scouting and preparation. Running back Lucas Baiocchi said he knew exactly when to cut back against the face of Napa’s defense last week because his coaches had described the moment in perfect detail.

While a Granite Bay coach scouting Jesuit-Tracy, the rest of the staff was busy watching film on both Tracy and Jesuit, preparing for whatever they would need to face.

“Every play is important in the playoffs, and we don’t want to have any bad plays that might be the play that decide the game,” Cooper said. “You can’t have any throw away plays because the teams we are playing now are really, really good.

“You have to figure out the stuff that will work and how you are going to use it to attack the other team, then go apply it on the practice field.”

Email Ike Dodson at iked@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter, @Ike_Dodson.