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Granite Bay crams for one tough football schedule

Grizzlies will face four league champs before taking on SFL foes
By: Bill Poindexter/Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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Ernie Cooper’s typical day at this time of the year lasts from 6:45 a.m. to 6:45 p.m.

Not even the potent cocktail of the midday August sun radiating off the artificial turf of Granite Bay High School’s football stadium can slow the Grizzlies’ energetic head coach.

“When you have a week zero game, you gotta work on your special teams hard,” he says between whistles. “We got a game in two weeks.”

So go at it long and hard the Grizzlies do, with Cooper leading by example. Now in their third year of opening the season in week zero, Granite Bay had to ditch its old training camp schedule — “The schedule I was on for 30 years,” Cooper said — and make adjustments to be more prepared despite one less week of practice.

“Things like tackling and special teams suffer. We were woefully underprepared,” Cooper said, recalling a 42-24 victory over visiting Reed of Sparks, Nev., in the 2010 opener. “We won, but we weren’t where we needed to be. Now, you’re cramming a lot in.”

The Grizzlies need it. Granite Bay’s opening opponent is no cupcake; nor is the opponent after that, or the next, or …

The Grizzlies will open against Westlake Village-Westlake at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25, in a Battle for Veterans game at Del Oro. The Warriors lost only to Concord-De La Salle in the CIF Open State Bowl Game last season. Granite Bay will visit Westlake Village-Oaks Christian on Sept. 1.

Vacaville, Pittsburg and Stockton-Lincoln follow. Only Oaks Christian didn’t win a league championship last fall, and it finished second to Westlake.

“It’s gonna be a lot of fun,” Cooper said, adding the message to his team following that fifth game is, “Now you know what it’s like to go through league. That’s why we lift and run all offseason.”

It might appear the Grizzlies have lost considerable talent after winning the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I banner last season, including three-year quarterback Brendan Keeney, tight end Spencer Briare and 6-foot-7, 330-pound lineman Gavin Andrews.

Truth be told, Granite Bay returns five starters on each side of the ball and possesses good senior leadership.

Said Cooper, “That’s why we kicked it up a notch.”