Granite Bay isn't soft on Downey in Division I section football playoffs

By: Bill Poindexter, Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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MODESTO — Downey High School trotted out a football team riding the coattails of a big-time passer and pushed by the momentum of a 10-1 record and a first-round blowout in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs.

But those Knights weren’t ready for this storm.

As a light rain dripped on and off Friday evening, Granite Bay continued to gain steam like a tornado and tore through Downey’s beloved Chuck Hughes Stadium with a 56-20 rout, leaving the Knights in ruins before changing directions and heading north again toward Elk Grove and a semifinal clash tonight with top-seeded Franklin.

The fifth-seeded Grizzlies (9-3) weren’t perfect. They lost a fumble early and committed six penalties, but that was about it on the mistake front.

Granite Bay overpowered Downey’s defensive line, and running backs Johnny Cooley, Taft Partridge and Tony Ellison ran wild for a combined 330 yards and five touchdowns. Quarterback Grant Caraway, two interceptions in his first varsity start against Westlake no longer in the rear-view mirror, had another spectacular game, completing 77 percent of his passes for four scores.

In all, Granite Bay scored on seven of its eight offensive possessions and rolled up 454 total yards.

Head coach Ernie Cooper said it was a grinding week of practice preparing for Downey’s no-huddle offense, led by Hawaii verbal commit Aaron Zwahlen, and the Knights’ stunt-heavy 3-3-5 defense. The Grizzlies were hitting two days before the game. But when it was all done …

“You saw the results,” Cooper said.

Like other recent Granite Bay opponents, Downey eschewed the run. Juan Vaa-Ayala, who rushed for 957 yards in 11 games, didn’t get his 1,000. The Grizzlies limited him to 15 yards in eight unproductive carries.

Then again, Downey broke 40 points nine times this season, including two 70-point explosions, riding the arm of Zwahlen, who went into the game with 46 touchdown passes against 10 interceptions. Zwahlen got his, with 322 yards and three touchdowns, including a 59-yarder to Michael Falepouono on Downey’s fourth play from scrimmage.

But Granite Bay intercepted Zwahlen three times, starting with Grant Powers’ 32-yard return for a touchdown as part of the Grizzlies’ 21-point first quarter.

Tony Milo had an interception on fourth and six at the Granite Bay 11-yard line to thwart a Downey threat in the final minute of the first half, and senior Beau Hershberger capped a 10-tackle outing with a tip and pick in the final minute of the game.

Cooper said the key was to change coverages and pressure Zwahlen, and it worked. Zwahlen completed 27 passes, but more significant numbers for Granite Bay were his 21 incompletions and the three interceptions. Zwahlen went into the game having completed 65 percent of his passes. His percentage was 56 against the Grizzlies.

“We were pulling our hair out all week,” Cooper said of his team’s preparation. “They do so many things. You have to change. And we had to play fast. If they get one on you, they get one on you.”

J.R. Calton sacked Zwahlen on the play before Powers’ pick six, and Marc Ellis chased and sacked Zwahlen for a 20-yard loss on Downey’s next possession, which ended with a punt and set up Granite Bay’s next touchdown, a seven-yard flip from Caraway to Steven Graber on a tight end screen.

Another Powers (Griffin) and Milo (Vince) shared a sack, and Vince Milo recovered a fumble on Downey’s final play.

Contact Bill Poindexter at Follow him on Twitter at BillP_RsvPT.




Granite Bay (9-3)   21   14   14   7—56

Downey (10-2)          7     7     0   6—20


GB — Cooley 3 run (Brown kick)

Dow — Falepouono 59 pass from Zwahlen (Reynolds kick)

GB — Powers 32 interception return (Brown kick)

GB — Graber 7 pass from Caraway (Brown kick)

GB — Ellison 8 pass from Caraway (Brown kick)

Dow — Lopes 35 pass from Zwahlen (Reynolds kick)

GB — Partridge 5 pass from Caraway (Brown kick)

GB — Graber 1 pass from Caraway (Brown kick)

GB — Cooley 1 run (Brown kick)

Dow — Lopez 8 pass from Zwahlen (kick blocked)

GB — Partridge 37 run (Brown kick)




RUSHING — Granite Bay, Cooley 19-152, Partridge 11-98, Ellison 13-72, Ellinwood 1-8. Downey, Vaa-Ayala 8-15, Zwahlen 2-5.

PASSING — Granite Bay, Caraway 10-13-0, 124. Downey, Zwahlen 27-48-3, 322.

RECEIVING — Granite Bay, Serna 3-41, Ellison 2-29, Partridge 2-21, Graber 2-8, Cooley 1-25. Downey, Lopes 7-79, Lopez 6-79, Vaa-Ayala 5-40, Best 4-22, Camp 3-28, Falepouono 2-74.