Granite Bay waits until second half to get hot

Grizzlies come back to beat Nevada Union in SFL opener
By: Bill Poindexter/Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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Granite Bay didn’t come unraveled at halftime Friday night, and some high school football teams would have, given the circumstances.

The Grizzlies trailed visiting Nevada Union 14-7, were held to 122 total yards and gave up a 50-yard pass and run for a go-ahead touchdown with 1:04 left in the second quarter.

But the coaches stayed cool, the players paid attention and applied what they were told, and Granite Bay came back in the second half to beat the Miners 28-21 in the first of what should be five meaningful Sierra Foothill League games.

Arik Bird ran for 97 of his 122 yards in the second half and scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 13-yard run with 47.4 seconds remaining, wriggling and crawling for the last three yards.

Joey Blackwell clinched the win for the Grizzlies (5-1, 1-0 SFL) when he recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff return.

“I challenged our guys — let’s be ready for this kind of game, because it’s five in a row just like this,” Granite Bay coach Ernie Cooper said. “You don’t want to stub your toe in that first league game. We have before. We’ve come back and been the league champion. We’ve stubbed our toe in the first game and come back and been the section champion.”

The Grizzlies had a goal-line stand late in the first half but then gave up the late bomb. After allowing the Miners 190 total yards in the first half, Granite Bay held Nevada Union to 105 yards in the second half, including a three and out to start.

Granite Bay then drove 80 yards in nine plays and tied the score at 14 after Brendan Keeney’s one-yard quarterback sneak. Bird had carries of 14 and 17 yards and two five-yarders on the march, and Keeney completed passes of 14 and 21 yards to Adam Wagner, the latter a diving catch on third and seven from the Nevada Union 32-yard line.

“At halftime, I said, ‘Guys, I haven’t run one trap play.’ They said, ‘Let’s run it in the second half,’” Cooper said. “We came out on that first drive and ran three or four trap plays. The kids blocked really well. We caught them off guard a little bit.

“And 18 and 3 are a pretty good combo,” Cooper said of Keeney and Wagner. “They’ve worked hard for at least two offseasons, coming out on their own and being ready for a game like this.”

Keeney completed 10 of 18 passes for 157 yards. Wagner caught nine for 153 yards, including an impressive one-handed grab of a Keeney dart over two defenders for a 23-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

“At halftime, we didn’t panic. We were disappointed in it, but nobody was chipping,” Cooper said. “The defensive coaches did a good job. We drew up a trap play and a couple of those pass plays you saw in the second half, and the kids responded. They were attentive at halftime. They were into it, and that’s a good feeling as a coach.”

Nevada Union answered with a 12-play, 78-yard touchdown drive and tied the score at 21 with 6:01 remaining on a one-yard sneak by backup quarterback Tyler Houlihan, playing for the injured Kyle Cota.

Miners coach Dave Humphers said Cota will return when he returns. Cota sustained a concussion against Elk Grove on Sept. 23 and didn’t suit up against Granite Bay.

On the ensuing winning drive, Bird carried six times for 27 yards, and Keeney had completions of 21 and 12 yards to Wagner, the latter on third and 13 from the Granite Bay 47. That followed a sack of Keeney and set up Taft Partridge for a three-yard run and a first down.

“He was running a drag,” Cooper said of Wagner. “We were faking play-action, even though it was third and 13. We had a deep guy. We had Briare on the deep drag, and then we had Wagner was on a real deep comeback, made to get 15 yards.”


Nevada 14, Granite Bay 13 — The Grizzlies let a 13-0 lead slip away, as the Miners scored on the next-to-last play in the third quarter and then tied the score with 1:02 left. The extra-point kick gave Nevada Union the lead.

Granite Bay 28, Nevada Union 21

Nevada Union   7   7   0    7 — 21
Granite Bay      0   7   7  14 — 28

NU — Davis 12 pass from Houlihan (Sill kick)
GB — Wagner 14 pass from Keeney (Bermudez kick)
NU — Hofheinz 50 pass from Houlihan (Sill kick)
GB — Keeney 1 run (Bermudez kick)
GB — Wagner 23 pass from Keeney (Bermudez kick)
NU — Houlihan 1 run (Sill kick)
GB — Bird 13 run (Bermudez kick)


RUSHING — Nevada Union, Dickinson 14-73, Houlihan 7-29, Humphers 6-14, Vallejo 5-34, Davis 2-32, Paye 2-8. Granite Bay, Bird 23-122, Partridge 8-32, Keeney 4-14, Bertolino 4-4.
PASSING — Nevada Union, Houlihan 6-10-0, 105. Granite Bay, Keeney 10-18-0, 157.
RECEIVING — Nevada Union, Humphers 3-29, Hofheinz 1-50, Paye 1-14, Davis 1-12. Granite Bay, Wagner 9-153, Briare 1-4.