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Backup JV QB helps Granite Bay down Oak Ridge

By: Bill Poindexter/Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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The last time Granite Bay High School had a sophomore quarterback on the varsity team, it was two years ago, and it was Brendan Keeney, the Grizzlies' three-year starter.

Keeney was injured on the first series of Friday night's Sac-Joaquin Section Division I quarterfinal against Oak Ridge, and the Grizzlies went deep into their depth chart to find his replacement. It resulted in a 21-12 victory.

Granite Bay will play top-seeded Stockton-Lincoln (11-1) in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 25. Lincoln defeated Elk Grove-Franklin on Friday night.

Keeney walked gingerly and spent the rest of the game in his uniform, covered by a jacket. There was no immediate word on the extent of his injury.

Backup quarterback Grant Caraway, a junior, could punt in Keeney's place but couldn't pass because of an injury. JV starter Vinny Esposito missed two days of school during the week because of an illness, which left the Grizzlies with JV backup quarterback Josh Neal.

The 5-foot-7, 135-pounder trotted onto the field on Granite Bay's first series of the second quarter, his youth apparent by his JV uniform. Neal promptly took the snaps on a 10-play, 80-yard march that ended with Arik Bird's first of two touchdowns, a three-yard run that gave the fifth-seeded Grizzlies (10-2) a 7-6 lead over the 13th-seeded Trojans (7-5).

"For 13 weeks, he's been with us. Josh had been at every practice this week so he was the guy, and he stepped up and did the job," Granite Bay coach Ernie Cooper said. "We're just running the ball behind Gavin (Andrews) and our O line, and there it is."

Without Keeney's strong arm, normally balanced Granite Bay ran 52 times for 254 yards behind Andrews, the 6-foot-6, 320-pound NCAA Division I recruit, and linemates Koki Arai, Kevin Blank, Justin Ramirez, Colton Sviba and tight end Spencer Briare, who also had another stellar game for the Grizzlies' improving defense.

Neal completed 4 of 5 passes for 46 yards, including a 23-yard scoring pass to Taft Partridge that capped the Grizzlies' first possession of the second half. Bird carried 34 times for 178 yards and a second touchdown, a five-yard clincher with two minutes remaining that capped a 15-play, 80-yard, six-minute push.

While Aaron Knapp and Alec Naki intercepted Oak Ridge's Jason Samuels twice in the fourth quarter, Briare and Beau Hershberger led a defensive charge that limited Oak Ridge to 44 yards rushing and 263 total. Trojans quarterback Jason Samuels was 17 for 27 for 219 yards, including touchdown passes of 24 and 40 yards to Dylan Collie, who caught eight passes for 153 yards.

"This guy stepped up. This guy's the future of Granite Bay football," the bearded Andrews said as he tousled Neal's hair. "You got a hunch, bet a bunch. We bet a bunch on him, and it came out good. We said we're going to win this game without our starting quarterbck or with him, so we hunkered down and we got nasty with it. That's our motto for our O line: Get nasty."

Samuels returned to the quarterback position for Oak Ridge after missing six weeks because of a broken collarbone.

"We put him in, and he executed," Trojans coach Eric Cavaliere said. "It was like he hasn't missed a beat. He willed himself back onto the field."

Oak Ridge cashed in on Xavier Lopez's fumble recovery at the Granite Bay 28-yard line and scored on Samuels' 24-yard pass to Collie with 5:15 left in the first quarter. The Trojans pulled to 14-12 on their first play following a 20-yard Granite Bay punt into a cold wind, a 40-yard pass from Samuels to Collie.

GRANITE BAY 21, OAK RIDGE 12

Oak Ridge     6   0   0   6--12
Granite Bay   0   7   7   7--21

OR--Collie 24 pass from Samuels (run failed)
GB--Bird 3 run (Bermudez kick)
GB--Partridge 23 pass from Neal (Bermudez kick)
OR--Collie 40 pass from Samuels (pass failed)
GB--Bird 5 run (Bermudez kick)

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING--Oak Ridge, Mueller 13-26, Dean 7-20, Samuels 1-minus 2. Granite Bay, Bird 34-178, Partridge 8-40, Ellison 4-12, Bertolino 3-8, Mook 2-10, Cooley 1-6.
PASSING--Oak Ridge, Samuels 17-27-2, 219. Granite Bay, Neal 4-5-0, 46; Keeney 0-2-0, 0.
RECEIVING--Oak Ridge, Collie 8-153, Mueller 3-32, Herd 3-10, Berringer 1-13, Spain 1-8, Gatta 1-3. Granite Bay, Partridge 2-17, Briare 1-23, Ellison 1-6.