Granite Bay edges out Woodcreek to keep playoff hopes alive, again
When Granite Bay needed it most, Coach Jeff Evans was able to turn to his two bruising running backs and give them the rock with a chance to grind out an old-fashioned win.
The Grizzlies ran the ball a dozen times in a row and churned out key first downs to wind down the final four minutes of Friday night’s contest with SFL rival Woodcreek and clinch a 10-3 victory.
Senior fullback Drew Yeargin, who scored the game’s only touchdown in the first half, and junior tailback Evan Tattersall split carries with the game on the line and they did their job. The duo helped Granite Bay march 54 yards, nearly into the end zone again, to clinch the win and keep the team’s playoff hopes alive.
“People were jumping off the Granite Bay bandwagon there for a little bit, and we haven’t finished our job yet, but we told our guys we have to win three in a row to get in and every one of those three is a playoff game for us,” Evans explained. “We consider them a playoff team and this was a grinder. This was old-school football. I don’t know how many times the ball went in the air, but it wasn’t very many.”
Surprisingly, it was Woodcreek that aired it out more.
The veer-based offense took advantage of the bubble screen numerous times to spread out the Grizzlies’ defense, but could only convert one big play through the air — a 30-yard pickup from quarterback Matt Gordon to Naequan Parker in the first half which set up the T-Wolves only points of the game.
But Woodcreek had key two turnovers that shifted momentum in Granite Bay’s favor — a fumble on the opening possession of the first half and a turnover on downs at midfield late in the game.
“Defensively we played great,” Woodcreek’s co-head coach Kyle Stowers said. “Coach (Hunkins) had a great scheme and we held a good team to 10 points. But we had a lot of penalties and we couldn’t take care of the football. We had two turnovers in the first half. Really, we felt like we moved the ball well, but you have to tip their hat to them, they played great defense when we got on their side of the field.”
Neither team could establish a rhythm on offense in the second half, but Woodcreek seemed to find something that was working with five minutes left on the clock. The Timberwolves were pounding the rock with the SFL’s leading rusher, Isaiah Ajayi, and backup running back Daniel Ross, who was filling in for senior tailback Tyler England (broken hand).
But when the team faced fourth and one, down by seven points, Woodcreek rolled the dice and went for it.
Gordon tried to draw the defense offside before snapping the ball and tossing it to Ajayi on a sprint to the sideline. The junior tailback was hit and reached the ball forward, but when the sideline judge marked the ball, he was a few inches short.
The spot was questioned, but the call stood and Granite Bay got the ball and never gave it back.
“I liked the field position, with the ball at midfield,” Stowers admitted. “We were struggling in the second half moving the ball against them, and our defense was playing well. I called it and I’ll live with it. They made the play and we didn’t.”
That defensive stand could have saved Granite Bay’s season.
With just a 2-6 record and a 1-3 league mark coming into Friday’s game, the Grizzlies were forced to win-out or stay home for the playoffs.
“It’s a game of inches and we have a lot of respect for Woodcreek and their coaches do an excellent job,” Evans acknowledged. “Those guys have completely changed the culture of this program. I coached at Woodcreek way back in the day, and it didn’t look like that. That was knock-down, drag-out, physical football.”
That’s exactly the kind of game the Grizzlies wanted to play.
This season, all three of Granite Bay’s wins have come against programs that rely on the run. Oak Grove of San Jose had big-play threats in the passing game and scored a pair of touchdowns through the air against Granite Bay, but couldn’t stop the Grizzlies juggernaut run game, which gave them the edge, 21-14. Nevada Union ran the ball hard and held a two-touchdown lead last week before Granite Bay kicked their offense in high gear and shut down the Miners’ talented running backs to win, 35-21.
In that game, Tattersall was flat-backing defenders and found pay dirt twice to help his team earn a homecoming victory. Although he didn’t score Friday, the bruising back iced the victory in the game’s final seconds.
“Tattersall’s the real deal,” Evans exclaimed. “Even though early on, it was tough for him to catch up to the speed of the game, he’s since he’s figured it out, and he’s matured quite a bit. He took a lot of coaching and for the physical specimen that he is, he had to earn his playing time, but he has continued to work and he’s become a man amongst boys. The kid’s a stud.”
Handing the ball off to Tattersall and Yeargin all night was Jade Foddrill, who has started the last three games for the Grizzlies after rotating snaps for the first few weeks of the season. Although he threw an interception in the first half, Foddrill did what he needed to do to help his team get the victory on the road.
“It’s nothing against the other guys, but we felt like Jade was ready to take control,” Evans admitted. “The other quarterbacks we have are seniors, but they’re helping Jade, even though he’s only a junior, in the film room every day; helping him get better. We just believe he gives us the best chance to win.”
It was Foddrill who called an audible to hand the ball off to Yeargin in the red zone instead of trying to throw it, and the move worked masterfully. The senior tailback scampered around right end for a nine-yard score.
“It was a counter play, and it went a little wider than we expected, but I had great blocking in front of me,” Yeargin observed. “Someone pancaked a guy — I think it was Will Craig — and I just ran threw a couple of arm tackles and got the score.”
That score, plus a late first-half field goal, gave Granite Bay just enough of a lead to fend off the Timberwolves and improve to 3-6 this season and 2-3 in the SFL.
With the loss, Woodcreek drops to 4-5 overall and 2-3 in league play.
“Obviously our kids are upset, as they should be, they put a lot into this game,” Stowers confessed. “Our defense did enough for us to win, our offense didn’t.”
Stowers acknowledged that there could be a three-way tie for fourth place if Rocklin beats Granite Bay next week and Woodcreek falls to Del Oro, but said he wants his team to take care of business and control their own playoff destiny.
That’s the boat the Grizzlies are in — with one more regular season win, the green and silver can lock up the fourth automatic bid from the league and secure their postseason berth.
“Rocklin’s always a huge game, because we consider them a playoff team and they’re still fighting for the same thing we are,” Evans explained. “We have to win to get in.”