Explosive Rocklin topples Granite Bay 31-14By: Ike Dodson■Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
A dazzling fireworks show illuminated the October sky before the second-half start to Granite Bay High’s homecoming tilt with Sierra Foothill League rival, Rocklin, on Friday.
And that’s not a reference to the aerial rockets during halftime festivities.
Rocklin (5-2 overall, 2-0 SFL) soared away from a three-point lead with 14 points in 27 seconds of the second quarter, then played spectacular defense throughout the final two periods to preserve their 31-14 halftime-lead to the final whistle.
Granite Bay (5-2, 1-1) already expects to miss star running back Tony Ellison for the season, but took an unlikely blow to the roster on second-quarter kickoff coverage when standout wide out Marc Ellis limped off the field.
With Ellis gone from his electrifying post near the sideline, defending the Granite Bay offense became a simple checklist for the Rocklin defense.
Stop the run — check.
Keep at least two defenders on tight end Dylan Keeney — check.
Whip the returning Division 1 state champs on their own turf — check.
“Last year we lost (to Granite Bay) in double overtime,” Rocklin senior quarterback Logan Webb said. “It’s a great feeling to come back after such heartbreak last year.
“Just come out and whip em’.”
Webb provided the spark for Rocklin’s early fireworks. After Granite Bay quarterback Josh Neal completed his second touchdown pass to Keeney, Webb scorched the Grizzlies for a 72-yard scoring strike to Blake Laurin (seven catches, 118 yards).
Granite Bay fumbled away the ensuing possession on their own 10-yard line and Webb made the Grizzlies pay with a five-yard scoring strike to Andrew Castle.
Aside from a few long passes, the Granite Bay defense proved tough. Incredibly, Granite Bay outgained Rockin 288-234 in total yardage. The early turnover ratio made the difference.
Granite Bay fumbled away the opening drive and Rocklin’s Max O’Rourke kicked a 22-yard field goal 11 plays later.
On the next possession, Keeney reached first down territory on third down, but a diving helmet knocked the ball backwards for a fumble recovered by Granite Bay. The ensuing punt went awry when the snap sailed downfield and Castle recovered for a score.
Early in the second quarter, Joshua Gurnaby returned an interception to the Granite Bay 12 and Riley Clark made it 17-7 with a one-yard dive to pay dirt.
Webb ended 14 for 23 for 198 yards, two touchdowns and two third-quarter interceptions that Granite Bay never capitalized on.
Neal was 16 of 24 for 187 yards, two scores and an interception. He hit Keeney five times for 64 yards (touchdowns of 18 and 22 yards) and found Ellis four times for 52 yards before his departure. Drew Toso stepped in to land four second-half catches for 44 yards.
“Having Marc out hurt us, but Drew stepped in and made some great catches in the second half,” Granite Bay coach Skip Albano said. “We are real pleased with his progression and work tonight but we sure missed Marc — no question.”
Granite Bay had plenty of time to match the sudden scoring burst that gave Rocklin the wide-lead in the second quarter, but didn’t showcase a sense of urgency late. The Grizzlies drove 50 yards in 12 plays across a five minute and 24 second span at the end of the third/start of the fourth quarter. That drive ended on a failed fourth down conversion, but Granite Bay forced a Rockin punt with six minutes to play.
In that drive, Granite Bay opened with five rushes, just three passes, was called for a delay of game with the clock running and had Keeney on the sideline.
“When they didn’t score in the third quarter — right then — they kind of went down a notch,” Rocklin coach Greg Benzel said. “Pretty soon they went down another notch.
“The next thing you know, they are not running two-minute-(offense), they aren’t trying (to preserve the clock).”
Benzel said the game was Rocklin’s second step towards a mission to win the SFL. The third step is an Oct. 25 game against host Woodcreek (3-4, 1-1) while Granite Bay is at Del Oro (5-2, 2-0).
Granite Bay junior varsity 17, Rocklin 14
Scott Henrichs calmly drilled a 23-yard field goal as time expired to give the Grizzlies a 2-0 start to conference play.
He also caught a touchdown pass from Brad Finch and watched Ryan Macintosh rumble to a 10-yard score.
“That whole (game-winning drive) I tried really hard not to think about that kick,” Henrichs said. “I just put it through and saw all my teammates and friends going crazy,”
Ike Dodson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter, @Ike_Dodson.