Cinderella Grizzlies

A six play, 77 yard Granite Bay drive capped by a John Cooley touchdown will be one of the lasting moments of the CIF State Football Championship Bowl Games. The score pushed the Grizzlies to a 21-20 win over Long Beach Poly following a 66-7 opening win by Central Catholic over Santa Fe Christian in the Division IV game.
"This is a culmination of 17 years of hard work. This team has taken in the tradition of our program and made some of their own. We're really proud of them," Granite Bay head coach Ernie Cooper said. "They did it the right way.
The final drive started on its own 23 yard line. After a two yard run by Taft Partridge, a defensive pass interference call on Poly was drawn by a nicely thrown deep ball from Granite Bay quarterback Grant Caraway helped spur the game winning drive. Caraway then hit Partridge on an excellent throwback screen pass for 33 yards. Partridge runs of 12, eight and three yards set up the game winning score for Cooley.
"I knew we had one good drive in us tonight and we picked the right time for it," Granite Bay head coach Cooper said. Two year starting linemen Kevin Blank and Justin Ramirez asked for the ball to be run behind them, Cooper said.
The game winning drive marked just the third trip into the red zone. The Grizzlies made it in the first quarter before a sack forced them out on the first play. They followed it up with an incomplete third down pass at Poly's 20 yard line.
The night wasn't easy offensively for Granite Bay, which finished with 254 yards (168 rushing and 118 passing). Granite Bay gained 72 yards on 21 first down plays (3.4 yards per play) before the final drive. With all of Granite Bay's fakes and play action game, winning on first down is vital for offensive success. It ran the ball 22 of the 26 first down plays.
Though it rarely had a big gainer, Granite Bay averaged more than four yards per carry and helped control the clock by more than seven minutes. The screen game was effective for the Grizzlies, who called five screen plays for 50 yards and was able to find big tight end Steven Graber (three catches and 38 yards) for quick play action throws over the middle.
The Granite Bay defense once again played well in holding Long Beach Poly to 308 yards (144 rushing yards) while forcing five interceptions. Junior Dylan Keeney (6-foot-5, 210 pounds) had two interceptions and a tip which led to another while Aaron Knapp added two interceptions, including the game winning one.
"Our defense won this championship tonight. Obviously we scored on defense," Cooper said. "Dylan Keeney has been an unsung hero all year. One of our great special teams guys. He's a junior waiting for his time and tonight was his time and boy did he come through."
Senior linebacker Beau Hershberger had five tackles in being paid plenty of attention by Poly. He struggled with the size up front of Poly, but continued to play through it and blew up a play in the first quarter. The 6-foot-2, 230 pound senior is a tweener in some respects, but is a good football player who holds a handful of offers with interest coming in from the Pac-12. Sophomore Cameron Smith had his breakout performance to people outside of the Sacramento area. He had six tackles in reading plays well and having a pass deflection on a third down play. He makes plays out of his area and is a hard hitter. He also has great size at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds.
The Jackrabbits are 0-2 in the state bowl games with both losses coming against Sac-Joaquin Section teams (Grant and Granite Bay). They were led by UCLA linebacker commit Jayon Brown. He had a game high 14 tackles (10 solo) with three tackles for loss, a sack and a pass break-up which should have been an interception. He is explosive and stayed disciplined on his reads. He was the best player on the field Friday night. Junior receiver John Smith had 63 yards and a touchdown when he went down the seam and caught it over two defenders. He has good size and with a UCLA offer already in tow, his stock could continue to rise.
Central Catholic 66, Santa Fe Christian 7
Central Catholic led 28-0 after the first quarter and 59-7 at halftime to win the Division IV state title. With the second half being played with a running clock, Central Catholic outgained Eagles 521 to 107 and the Raiders didn't face a third down in the first quarter. The win set a state bowl record for most points in a game and biggest margin of victory. It is the first state title for Central Catholic after losing to St. Bonaventure in 2007. With returning starters on the lines and good talent coming up through the program, don't expect a step back for the Raiders.
The running duo of Rey Vega (six carries for 202 yards and four touchdowns) and Ray Lomas (10 carries for 183 yards and three touchdowns) were excellent again. Vega is an interesting recruit with big play potential (80 and 60 yard scoring runs), good cutback ability, a nice running style and burst in the open field. Don't be surprised if someone takes a chance on him.
"We started running the ball and it seemed like the kids wanted to run the ball. With our backs, we are pretty unstoppable," Central Catholic head coach Roger Canepa said. "Everybody was unselfish and blocked. When you run the ball, you take the will out of a team."
Oregon commit John Mundt didn't get many chances due to the score and finished with a 42 yard catch and run when he shook off a defender in the middle of the field. He had a pair of drops too, but was an asset in the run game. The majority of the Raiders' run go to his (strong) side in their base look.
News and Notes
The CIF announced the Home Depot Center will host the state bowl games for 2013 and 2014. The Home Depot Center has housed all of the bowl games since their inception in 2006. The state is reportedly working on a plan to start alternating locations (North and South) for football and basketball starting in 2015.
A major issue on the agenda for the next year could be how to redefine the Division IV game. Since it started as the Small School game in 2008, only one year (2009 with Modesto Christian and Francis Parker) has it been decided by less than 21 points. The game has also produced the two biggest blowouts. The solution isn't clear, but it is definitely something to look at.