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December 8, 2012Granite Bay produced another fast start and dominated throughout to beat St. Ignatius 45-17 in the NorCal Division I Regional game. The Grizzlies become the third team from the Sierra Foothill League to reach the state bowls in the last four years.
The Grizzlies scored on all their drives expect for two (a turnover on downs at the Wildcats' 10 yard line and a punt on their last possession) to post a 28 point win. They ran for more than 300 yards, controlled the clock and gave up less than 200 total yards to St. Ignatius if you take out the final 55 yard touchdown during running clock time. Granite Bay will next play state power Long Beach Poly in the Division I state bowl.
Cooper, also the Granite Bay play caller, goes off a predetermined script of plays to start each game. On Friday, it got the Grizzlies off to another good start in tallying 133 yards and a 14-0 lead while St. Ignatius ran just three plays for zero yards. In total, the Grizzlies ran 11 plays on those two drives (nine runs, two passes). Quarterback Grant Caraway was masterful in the screen game and Granite Bay showed its usual wrinkles to get St. Ignatius down early.
"I'm running the plays on our script. These are the plays we had in practice, we filmed them (and) our players go in and watch them," Cooper said. "We are playing the game before we ever get here on a Friday night."
The key wrinkle was using Tony Ellison on fake fly sweeps and hitting big holes up the middle or off tackle coming back the opposite direction. The eight carries for Ellison is the lowest since the Woodcreek game on October 26, but he did have three catches for 79 yards. The main benefactor of the fakes was senior John Cooley, who finished with 206 yards and four touchdowns. He had three runs of at least 20 yards and ran with power to move the pile.
"I thought we were really good running the football," Cooper said. "We don't want to be a one dimensional team, but I was going with the hot hand and the hot hand was the running game."
In a night with this much offensive production, don't overlook the defense. The Grizzlies defended the pass well forcing quarterback Jack Stinn to hold onto the ball and were good on third down (St. Ignatius converted just two of nine chances). The capper was a well-played interception by defensive back and Cal baseball signee Aaron Knapp, who took it back for a touchdown.
The running duo of Elijah Dale and Albert Waters is shifty and tough to bring down in the open field. They combined for 13 carries for 61 yards, but saw their production limited when St. Ignatius fell behind. Despite being smaller backs, they ran well between the tackles at points. Dale is one of the top returners for the Wildcats.
When you get down early and the other team controls the clock, it is near impossible to get back into the game. St. Ignatius trailed 14-3 after one quarter and then held the ball for 1:49 and ran just eight plays in the second quarter. The main issue was Granite Bay's ability to win big on first down and set up comfortable down and distances. St. Ignatius forced just six third down plays from the Grizzlies.
Stinn is elusive in the pocket and keeps his eyes downfield for late plays. He was hurt by a couple of drops on Friday and not being able to get much space from Granite Bay defenders. He finished 14-for-30 for 139 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
There may not be a team playing better in Northern California right now than Granite Bay. The Grizzlies, which were on the doorstep of reaching the state bowls last year, will make their first trip to Carson and take on Long Beach Poly. The Jackrabbits are similar to Granite Bay in that they started 1-3, have rallied for 12 straight wins and won one of the best playoff brackets in the state.
Fellow Sacramento area power Grant knocked off Long Beach Poly in the 2008 Open Division Bowl game.