High school football

Granite Bay starts over - as usual

Grizzlies again looking for 44 starters, and have plenty of candidates
By: Bill Poindexter
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It occurred to Ernie Cooper after the 1996 season, the first year Granite Bay High School fielded only freshmen and sophomores on the football field, that the same guys were playing offense and defense and most of the others weren’t playing at all. The team didn’t improve. “We said we have to develop more kids or it’s going to be the same story every year,” Cooper recalled. It wasn’t the same story the next year and hasn’t been since. Granite Bay’s first varsity team, minus seniors, went 3-7 but improved significantly, and the Grizzlies went 8-2 with their first senior class in 1998. Granite Bay won back-to-back Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championships in 1999 and 2000 and another in 2007. The goal of Cooper and his staff each August is to find 44 starters – on offense, defense and special teams. While there are exceptions to the rule, the Grizzlies have hit that goal “a few times,” Cooper said. “It’s been successful for us. It works here,” Cooper said before “Meet the Grizzlies” night last Thursday. “It has helped us motivate kids in the offseason. The kids are being asked to do one thing. That has led to bigger squads. We found we had more kids interested in playing.” That’s true again this season, as 70 players are on the 2010 roster for Friday night’s season opener at home against Reed of Sparks, Nev. While the Grizzlies must replace all 11 starters on defense, they do have some returning performers – notably Brendan Keeney, a 6-foot-3-inch, 205-pound junior quarterback who passed for 1,681 yards and 18 touchdowns with just seven interceptions last season. “A lot of people would say we run the fly offense, but we have a pretty good passing game,” Cooper said. Also back are tight end Matt Kasner, flyback Cory Brehm, who rushed for 500 yards and five touchdowns last season, and offensive tackle Gavin Andrews (6 feet 6, 320), who started every game as a sophomore. Defensively, Granite Bay has players who can get busy all over the field. Inside linebacker Andrew Wright has sideline-to-sideline ability, according to Cooper, and Brock Kent is a lineman who can drop into pass coverage. “He plays like a strong safety,” Cooper said. Cooper believes there isn’t one weak team in the rugged Sierra Foothill League and expects season records to be in the 8-2, 7-3, 6-4 range, as losses are going to be picked up along the way because everyone has to play each other. He also expects “a few sleepless nights.” “But it’s great competition,” he said. “It’s going to be entertaining for people.” Bill Poindexter can be reached at GRANITE BAY GRIZZLIES 2009 record: 9-3 overall, 3-2 in the Sierra Foothill League (tied for second), lost to Folsom in the quarterfinals of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs. Season opener: Friday vs. Reed of Sparks, Nev. Primary weapons: Quarterback Brendan Keeney, flyback Cory Brehm, defensive lineman Brock Kent. Eye opener: Inside linebacker Andrew Wright. “He can step up and deliver a blow, and he has a tremendous motor,” coach Ernie Cooper said of the 6-foot-1-inch, 225-pound senior, who can cover sideline to sideline. Notable: The Grizzlies have to replace all 11 starters on defense, but that’s nothing new. Granite Bay typically plays its seniors and each season seeks 44 starters, including special teams. SEASON SCHEDULE All varsity games start at 7:30 p.m. unless noted Friday, vs. Reed (Sparks, Nev.), 7 p.m. Sept. 3, at St. Mary’s, 7:15 p.m. Sept. 11, vs. Oakdale in Dublin, 2:30 p.m. Sept. 17, vs. Vacaville Sept. 24, bye Oct. 1, vs. Pittsburg Oct. 7, at Nevada Union, 7:15 p.m. Oct. 15, at Woodcreek Oct. 22, vs. Del Oro Oct. 29, at Rocklin Nov. 5, vs. Roseville