Friday night preview - GB vs. Rocklin is headliner

Oakmont looks for sixth straight win
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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One week after its titanic battle with Del Oro, the Granite Bay High football team did not catch a break in the schedule as Rocklin comes calling tonight.


Will the wear and tear of a physical struggle against the Golden Eagles leave the Grizzlies depleted for this week, or will the loss to Del Oro energize Ernie Cooper’s charges as they seek to avoid consecutive losses. For a team that has enjoyed the success that Granite Bay has over the years, it seems likely that the team on the field tonight will be ready for the 6-0 Thunder.


Rocklin is fresh off a 28-0 win in its Sierra Foothill League opener last Friday, but that result is somewhat misleading as Woodcreek played that game without running back James Nunley, who produces nearly half of its offense.


Tonight’s game at Granite Bay will match a strong defensive team in Granite Bay against one of the area’s most explosive offensive units. While most of the strong scoring teams in the SFL lean towards either the running game (Del Oro, Granite Bay) or the passing game (Roseville, Oakmont), the Thunder are the most balanced.


Jackson Cummings runs for 144 yards per contest and has rushed for 15 touchdowns, while quarterback Jimmy Laughrea throws for more than 200 yards per game and has tossed for 13 scores for a team that scores 44 points each time it takes the field.


This diverse attack features numerous targets for Laughrea’s passes. Converted quarterback Tiger Sorenson has 21 grabs and three TDs, while Holden Huff is the big yardage guy, with 405 yards out of his 15 catches. Sorenson and Kyle Garvella have each scored three times and Huff has taken four balls to the house.


Granite Bay answers with an offense that specializes in keeping opposing units standing on the sidelines. While the Grizzlies did give up in excess of 200 yards to Del Oro’s Bryce Pratt last week, he had to tote it 40 times to get that yardage, and the Grizzly offense did a good job of holding the ball and shortening the game.


Brendan Keeney is not a big stat guy under center for Granite Bay, but he has become quite proficient at converting third downs and extending drives. That is a skill that will come in handy against the Thunder.


Granite Bay will look to run the ball with Devaunte Bolton and Cory Brehm carrying the heaviest load, but the Grizzlies have had a dozen different players find the end zone this season. That depth keeps Cooper’s crew fresh late in games.


Most of Keeney’s damage through the air has come on passes to senior wide receiver Ian Rhodes, who has caught 23 balls and nets more than 18 yards per catch. Watch for junior tight end Matt Kasner, whose four catches for the season will not leap off the stat sheet, but three of those grabs came in the second half last week against Del Oro. Keeney seems to be getting comfortable with his big tight end as a second option in the passing game.


The winner of this one may well be decided on the defensive side of the ball. Granite Bay’s defense has been stout all year long, but this will be a different kind of test against a team that can chuck it and grind it out.


When the Grizzlies have the ball, they will see a defense that has given up points to some very good offenses this year. Rocklin does not seem to overwhelm on defense, but it does just enough to get the job done.


Both squads have been tested by stiff preseason schedules, and this is a huge game in the SFL. Granite Bay does not want to fall to 0-2 in league games, and Rocklin is hoping to establish itself as the prime challenger to Del Oro at the top of the league.


If you are headed out to the game, arrive early as they are expecting a huge crowd for another of the games of the year in the SFL.



Oakmont at Woodcreek

One of the night’s most important decisions may well be a medical one, as Woodcreek will make the call at game time as to the availability of running back James Nunley, who has been nursing a hamstring injury.


As of Friday morning, coach John Hildebrand was unable to confirm the available of the senior who has carried nearly 50 percent of his offense this season. Woodcreek (0-1 in the SFL, 1-5 overall) struggled through an intense non-league schedule to get ready for SFL play, and then arrived at the league opener last week without its star runner.


If Nunley goes, expect him to carry a heavy dose of the Timberwolves offense, but if he can’t, Woodcreek may struggle to move the ball against an opportunistic Oakmont defense. The Vikings (1-0, 5-1) have not overwhelmed with dominant play on the defensive side of the ball, but that unit has made some huge plays for Tim Moore’s team.


The Vikings are looking to close out their final year before leaving the SFL by earning a postseason berth, and a win tonight might just do that for them. Knocking off Woodcreek would give Oakmont six wins, and despite a murderer’s row that includes Granite Bay, Del Oro and Rocklin down the stretch, that number (six) is probably the magic number for reaching the playoffs in this season’s expanded format.


The Vikings run the spread, and they love to throw the ball, with Alex Ford completely 70 percent of his passes, and receiver Fred Mobley leading the way with 52 catches in six games.  Michael Garrison continues to come on as a second option for Ford, and tight end Kyle Jones is also dangerous.



Roseville at Del Oro

After driving to the two-yard-line in an attempt to use a last score to tie or win last week at Oakmont, the competition gets ratcheted up another level this week when Roseville visits Del Oro in Loomis.


The Tigers can hope for a Golden Eagle letdown after their battle with Granite Bay last week, and the Roseville passing attack will be a look that Del Oro may not have seen. Junior signal caller Nick Blaser leads the league in passing yards with nearly 250 per contest and Matt Hack has grabbed 30 balls for Roseville.


Beau Smith in the Tigers’ big-play receiver, as his 26 catches have gone for nearly 20 yards per reception. The new addition to the Roseville offensive arsenal is running back Issiac Allen, who did not play in the first three games, but has emerged as a threat on the ground in recent weeks.


The big problem for Roseville is Del Oro’s ability to dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The Tigers will need to load up at the line of scrimmage to have any hope of slowing Bryce Pratt and his 200 yards per game, and even that may not be enough to stop this elite offensive unit.