Champs again: Granite Bay wins second Division I section football crown in a row
Granite Bay High School won its second consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section Division I football championship, its third section title in six years and its fifth overall with an entertaining rollercoaster ride of a 35-23 victory over Oak Ridge on Friday night at Sacramento State.
The football gods must have had tickets on the 50-yard line, as a weekend storm that brought wind, multiple inches of rain and other assorted Mother Nature mayhem — with more promised to come — pushed back from the table for about three hours, satisfied with a cool, stiff wind blowing from the south, while the fifth-seeded Grizzlies (11-3) and third-seeded Trojans (12-2) worked over the turf at Hornet Stadium.
Granite Bay on Sunday was awarded a regional Division I bowl game and will face Central Coast Section champ San Francisco-St. Ignatius (10-3) at 7:30 p.m. Friday night at Sacramento State. Clovis North (12-1) and Long Beach Poly (11-3) will meet in Long Beach in the other semifinal. Folsom (14-0) will clash with national power Concord De La Salle (13-0) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Sacramento State. Folsom won the Division II section crown by crushing Elk Grove 44-18.
Granite Bay head coach Ernie Cooper said this season’s team is different than last season’s first Division I champion, which featured three Pac-12 recruits.
“We had a good mix of juniors on last years’s team,” Cooper said. “This team is a little more senior-dominated.”
These seniors won the Sierra Foothill League title as freshmen and sophomores and last season won a section banner.
“That’s a pretty good four years,” Cooper said.
Granite Bay rushed for a season-high 554 yards among its 607 total yards. All three featured backs in the Grizzlies’ fly offense eclipsed 100 yards. Workhorse senior Johnny Cooley had 120 yards in 21 carries, including a five-yard touchdown run to cap Granite Bay’s 11-play, 80-yard drive on the game’s first possession.
Junior Tony Ellison carried 17 times for 199 yards and an 11-yard scoring run on one of his many sweeps, which gave Granite Bay a 21-9 lead early in the third quarter.
And for the first time this season, the load and glory belonged to senior fullback Taft Partridge. The lead blocker for Ellison on all those sweeps, Partridge rambled for 235 yards in just 11 carries, and he scored both of Granite Bay’s touchdowns in the fourth quarter on back-to-back runs of 47 and 84 yards.
“When my number is called, I just want to give it all to my teammates,” said Partridge, a three-year varsity player whose badge of courage, a chronic bleeding bridge of the nose, opened up again Friday night. “It’s all the O line.”
Still, Granite Bay missed an opportunity to widen its lead late in the first half when Oak Ridge senior Nick Gordon intercepted quarterback Grant Caraway at the goal line, and the Trojans pulled within 14-9 on Jason Samuels’ 19-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Sipes on the first possession of the second half.
Samuels went on to put it up 35 times in the last half. Like every other Granite Bay foe this postseason, Oak Ridge opted to throw. While not completely ditching the run, the Trojans threw 49 times and ran it 25 times. Samuels ended up 25 for 49 for 322 yards and two touchdowns.
But Granite Bay had seven deflections and three interceptions — one by junior cornerback Luke Bussey and two by sophomore inside linebacker Cameron Smith, who had another game as huge as his 15-year-olds hands.
Defensive coordinator John Roza said the Grizzlies couldn’t apply as much pressure to Samuels because of Oak Ridge’s spread offense, so they dropped more people into coverage. Roza was the head coach for these seniors at the freshmen and JV levels — undefeated teams both — before Cooper offered him a move up to the varsity.
“This is a real special deal. These guys are like my sons,” Roza said.
Said senior offensive lineman Justin Ramirez, “As freshmen, we were always hungry. We came together as a family.”
Contact Bill Poindexter at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at BillP_RsvPT.
GRANITE BAY 35, OAK RIDGE 23
Granite Bay 14 0 7 14 — 35
Oak Ridge 3 0 6 14 — 23
GB — Cooley 5 run (Brown kick)
OR — FG Lamb 27
GB — Graber 10 pass from Caraway (Brown kick)
OR — Sipes 19 pass from Samuels (kick wide)
GB — Ellison 11 run (Brown kick)
GB — Partridge 47 run (Brown kick)
OR — Martin 2 run (Samuels run)
GB — Partridge 84 run (Brown kick)
OR — Spain 19 pass from Samuels (pass failed)
RUSHING — Granite Bay, Cooley 21-120, Ellison 17-199, Partridge 11-235. Oak Ridge, Wellman 9-58, Martin 7-35, Samuels 6-16, Hughes 3-7.
PASSING — Granite Bay, Caraway 5-10-1, 56. Samuels, 25-49-3, 322.
RECEIVING — Granite Bay, Ellison 3-38, Graber 1-10, Cooley 1-8. Oak Ridge, Dwelley 9-112, Spain 6-95, Priest 3-43, Martin 3-13, Hughes 1-20, Sipes 1-19, Wellman 1-14, Buenzli 1-6.