Grizzlies seize control early, slay Dragons

56-0 win sets up second-round date with Folsom
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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Eight offensive series, eight touchdowns – it doesn’t get much more efficient than that. After enjoying Thanksgiving week off last season following a narrow first-round playoff defeat at the hands of Grant, Granite Bay High football coach Ernie Cooper is happy to be busy this time around, as the Grizzlies prepare for the section quarterfinals. “I told the kids that they just ruined Thanksgiving week and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Cooper said. “Before last year, we were in the second round of the playoffs nine years in a row. I didn’t enjoy last year at all.” Cooper’s fifth-seeded Grizzlies stepped on No. 12 Sacramento High early and kept the heat on all night long in a 56-0 whitewashing on a cold night at Granite Bay. Granite Bay executed its game plan with precision from the outset as it pinned the Dragons deep with touchbacks off of each kickoff and then kept them from getting anything going. “We had a great week of practice,” Cooper said. “The kids were getting antsy to play a game. We caught a break kicking off to start out. It gave us a chance to take advantage of a pretty good wind and pin them down there.” There was a sense early on that Sacramento knew it was in over its head, and its early desperation turned to the Grizzlies’ advantage. On the second play of the contest, the Dragons tried a double-pass, but Julian Smith’s toss was intercepted by Andrew Knapp at the Sacramento 45-yard-line. The Grizzlies turned that into points four plays later on a Brendan Keeney to Ian Rhodes scoring strike from 28 yards out. After a fake punt went awry on the next Dragon possession, field position was once again to the advantage of Granite Bay, as it drove 37 yards for another touchdown, with Devaunte Bolton doing the honors from nine yards out. “We are really rolling right now,” Cooper said. “Devaunte has it going and we are getting good things from the combination of Keeney to Rhodes.” The Granite Bay defense was ferocious all night long, led by Mike Wade, Jacob Kludjian and the big hits of John Kendall, who rocked Dragon quarterback Jonathan Kodama on Sacramento’s third sequence. The sack and subsequent fumble set Granite Bay up for a 19-yard scoring march, with Cory Brehm picking up the eight-yard TD run. Even when the Dragons did make a play, Granite Bay had an answer. After Keeney hit tight end Matt Kasner for a second quarter score to increase the advantage to 28-0, Sacramento’s electrifying Genesis Grimes took the kick-off back to the Grizzlies’ nine-yard line, but Granite Bay’s defense stiffened and delivered a goal-line stand. That show of defensive force was followed by a 12-play, 93-yard scoring march that ended when fullback Travis Nicholas scored from 10 yards out. Nicholas is usually seen clearing the path for other Granite Bay ball carriers, but he can also deliver when he gets the chance to carry the ball. When Austin Cobabe intercepted a pass with 27 second left in the half, Granite Bay was unwilling to simply run out the clock, and put an exclamation point on the first 24 minutes with back-to-back spectacular pass plays from Keeney to Rhodes. The second was a 20-yard touchdown toss that set the midway count at 42-0. That margin sent the Grizzlies to the bench as the reserves got all of the work in the second half. “We knew the game was over at that point,” Cooper said. “It was a cold night and we wanted to tell our guys to shut it down for the second half.” Keeney completed 6-of-8 passes for 128 yards and three scores in his one half of work, and four Grizzly backs combined for 164 yards before the break. The Granite Bay second unit continued to dominate after halftime, highlighted by a 19-play, 94-yard scoring drive that brought the final touchdown of the night. Chris Campbell, Dominic Lucia and Greg Ringholm took turns pounding away at Sacramento during two second-half scoring marches. The win moves Granite Bay into the second round of the section playoffs, and sends the Grizzlies (9-2) on the road to face a tough No. 4-seeded Folsom team (10-1) next Friday night. “We know we’re going to have to play at our highest level to beat a very good Folsom team,” Cooper said. “That is what you expect to see when you get to the second round.”