Granite Bay has made a habit in the second half of the year to get out to quick starts. It happened again on Friday in jumping out to a 14-0 lead after just one offensive play for Franklin. The lead widened and the Grizzlies eventually notched a 37-7 win to reach the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I finals for the second straight season.
Granite Bay led 30-0 in the first half and was never threatened against the previously undefeated Wildcats. The Grizzlies have won seven in a row and are a one point loss to Pittsburg away from carrying an 11 game winning streak. Franklin finishes the year 12-1, the best year in school history. Franklin was without top rushers Christian Fonbuena, Steven Rogers and Kyran Harris along with top defensive lineman William Vi. Granite Bay was also without a top defensive lineman.
Senior quarterback Grant Caraway (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) has been very accurate, throws well on the run and is patient to let plays develop. He went 10-for-16 for 123 yards and two touchdowns. Completing 62 percent of his passes, it is the first time since the Del Oro game he completed less than 75 percent of his passes. While most of his throws are out to the flats or comeback routes, his best play came on the backbreaking score for the Grizzlies. Up 23-0, the No. 1 option was a wheel route, but Caraway gave a play action look and went to tight end Steven Graber for a deep post and a 32 yard touchdown.
Caraway's passing only makes the running game more dangerous. In total, the Grizzlies ran 45 times for 245 yards. Tony Ellison ended with 94 yards and a touchdown while Taft Partridge went for 95 yards and a score. John Cooley had 45 yards and a touchdown. The offensive line controlled the action up front with little to no penetration by Franklin's defense. Franklin's defense is built on speed and the Grizzlies were able to handle the point of attack. Granite Bay runs its accustomed fly sweeps and inside handoffs (focusing on between the tackles against Franklin), but also showed a new wrinkle. After flashing it once against Downey, Granite Bay once again called the fake fly sweep with a wide pitch the opposite direction. Partridge ran it twice in the second half for 33 yards.
After early season struggles, including against Oaks Christian, the Granite Bay pass defense was very sound. Franklin challenged down the field along the sidelines and senior Nick Grace and junior Luke Bussey handled themselves well in man situations. Franklin was 0-for-9 on deep throws to the sidelines and drew just one pass interference call. Both defensive backs are good at playing the ball in the air and not getting beat off the ball. Grace held leading receiver Dionte Young in check prior to Young's first half injury.
The Wildcats' running game never got going on Friday with new runners in the fold. They averaged just more than two yards per carry (58 yards on 28 carries). Trevon Lampley was the most dangerous runner, but isn't a natural back in seeing lanes. Franklin had rushed 104 times for 807 yards in the two previous playoff games. One issue was blocking the Granite Bay linebackers with sophomore Cameron Smith in the middle of the field and Beau Hershberger holding the edge well.
When you are struggling to move the football, you can't afford to lose field position as well. Of the 10 Franklin possessions, eight of them started at its own 24 yard line or worse and none started inside Granite Bay territory. Part of the problem was the lack of big plays in the return game.
Franklin was down 14-0 less than six minutes in after fumbling on its first offensive play. It is tough for any team to play from behind, especially a team built like Franklin. It didn't help when it got Granite Bay into third downs, the Grizzlies went 6-for-8. From the outset, this wasn't Franklin night to close a season which started with section title aspirations.