Granite Bay stands strong vs. Napa, wins 28-13 in front of Grizzlies grad Miles Burris of the Oakland RaidersBy: Ike Dodson■of the Roseville Press Tribune
Granite Bay High junior Sam Cusano had one thing on his mind Friday as he waited for a punt at the Grizzlies’ 14-yard line with less than minute to play in the first half of Friday’s Sac-Joaquin Section quarterfinal.
Cusano made up for a muffed punt return just four plays earlier by dashing 86 yards for a touchdown 30 seconds before the break. Granite Bay took a 21-7 lead at the half and prevailed 28-13 over Napa to reach the SJS semifinals.
“I knew I had to do something, make something happen,” Cusano said. “We worked on that right punt return all week and it was wide open.
“I saw an opening and I took it.”
The Granite Bay defense played tenacious to limit a Napa offense that averaged over 30 points a game and outscored Pitman 39-14 the prior round.
With class of 2007 Granite Bay graduate and current Oakland Raiders starting linebacker Miles Burris watching from the sideline, the Grizzlies recovered a fumble on the opening snap, landed three takeaways and made three fourth-down stops.
Burris hadn’t seen Granite Bay play since the 2012 state-championship season, but was able to make Friday’s prep game after Thursday’s 24-20 win over the Chiefs opened his schedule for a three-day weekend.
“I still bleed green and silver,” Burris said Friday. “It’s good to get the win last night and great to watch the win here tonight.
“I’m glad to come back and watch my alma mater play some ball.”
Burris was donned in his Granite Bay letterman jacket, often surrounded by fellow alumni on a packed home sideline. He gave his stamp of approval to the Grizzlies defenders.
“Defense wins championships and (Granite Bay is) playing great ‘D’ right now,” Burris said. “I hope they do get another championship.”
Granite Bay coach Ernie Cooper said his players knew Burris would make an appearance after they moved past the opening round last week.
“I had gone to see him play a couple weeks ago against the Broncos,” Cooper said. “He said ‘After that Thursday night game I want to come watch you guys play, so get me a ball game’. So he was real excited when we won last Friday night to extend our season, because he had an open Friday.
“I told the guys all week ‘Miles is coming’ and that fired up the linebackers.”
Granite Bay’s USC-bound middle linebacker, Cameron Smith, isn’t one to need any extra inspiration, but he played spectacular to stifle Napa Friday.
In case his defensive play wasn’t enough, he made huge plays on offense too. Smith came into the game at tight end on third and goal from the Napa five, turning the entire defensive line inside as Lucas Baiocchi escaped behind him for an untouched score.
After Baiocchi struck again from 32 yards out and Cusano chipped in a return score, Smith took the same post on Granite Bay’s second-half goal line possession, but broke outside and caught a 3-yard touchdown from Justin Yeaton.
“That Cameron Smith package was a Napa specialty,” Baiocchi said. “They were not expecting to get our middle linebacker out as a lead blocker on that sweep, and the corner just watched him go right past (on the touchdown catch).”
Baiocchi ended with a game-high 114 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. Ben Smith also ran 16 times for 82 yards. Yeaton was 6 of 9 for 102 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
The offense was complimented by Granite Bay’s big play defense. The Grizzlies could have let the game slip into a one-possession score in the fourth, but denied a touchdown after allowing a first-and-goal on their own 3-yard line.
Mitchell Morse had two fourth quarter sacks, including a clutch one to end the goal-line stand.
“Defense is the strength of our team,” Cooper said. “They knuckled down. It was really good, our guys saying get under their pads, and they did.”
Granite Bay coaches will likely scout the Jesuit/Tracy game Saturday to glimpse their opponent for next week’s SJS semifinal. The winner of that game plays the winner of Folsom/Monterey Trail for the section title.
Email Ike Dodson at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @Ike_Dodson.