Granite Bay's defense cracks down on Napa

Turnovers, big hits beat down Indians, put Grizzlies into D-I quarterfinals
By: Bill Poindexter/Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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Aggressive, mean, nasty and stingy, too.

Granite Bay High School's defense brought what might have been its most ferocious effort of the season Friday night, terrorizing poor Napa in a 31-7 pummeling in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs at Granite Bay.

The 12th-seeded Indians (7-4) drew first blood with a 10-play, 79-yard touchdown drive, but it was Napa that sustained the bulk of the bruising, headaches and ringing in the ears for the rest of the night.

Granite Bay (9-2), the No. 5 seed, will play host to No. 13 Oak Ridge next Friday night in a quarterfinal. Oak Ridge knocked off No. 4 Burbank 30-28 on Friday night.

Spencer Briare, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound senior, batted down two passes as though he wanted to pop the ball like a balloon. Emerging junior Beau Hershberger recovered a fumble after senior Alec Naki stripped the ball from David Hunt, squashing a Napa drive at the Granite Bay 22-yard line in the second quarter.

Junior Nick Grace, all 145 pounds of him, stuck his hand into the midsection of Napa's Taylor Martin at the Granite Bay 10 to dislodge a pass on fourth down and intercepted Indians quarterback Zack Sims on the final play of the game.

Nick Bermudez, known more for his extra points - he kicked four and a short field goal Friday night - intercepted a pass and returned it deep into Napa territory to set up the Grizzlies' clinching touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

And Naki fired the coup de grace when he cracked Napa junior Zach Jones on fourth and six from the Granite Bay 34 early in the fourth period. Sims found Jones for what have been a first down until Naki drilled him in the back number and knocked the ball loose. Jones was down on the field for several minutes until he walked slowly to the sideline. Jones, a junior and a gamer, returned to the game.

"They got it dialed, and I'm very proud of them," Grizzlies head coach Ernie Cooper said. "They were the difference in the game, our defense."

Granite Bay's offense, meanwhile, didn't arrive until the second half. The Grizzlies led 10-7 at halftime lead on a 50-yard punt return by the elusive Michael Bertolino on the final play of the first quarter.

Granite Bay took the second-half kickoff and marched 69 yards in 11 plays, ticking off almost half of the third-quarter clock before finally scoring on a two-yard run by Arik Bird. The senior rushed for 44 of his hard-earned 62 yards in the second half.

Cooper said he got into the ears of his offense at halftime, something he's seldom had to do this season, and the alarm clock woke up the Grizzlies.

"Napa was playing playoff football, and we were stuck in week two or something, and (Napa) had something to do with that," Cooper said. "Our guys obviously woke up. We had that nice drive to start the second half, and to me, that was the difference. We just came out and said we're going to run the ball right at you, and that kind of set the tempo for the second half. We went double tight, and we're running right at you."

The Grizzlies scored twice in the fourth quarter. Naki's jarring hit gave the ball back to Granite Bay, and the Grizzlies quickly drove 66 yards in seven plays, scoring on Bird's second touchdown, a three-yard run with 5:06 left. Brendan Keeney's 30-yard completion to Briare was sandwiched between six effective running plays.

Bermudez's interception and a defensive holding call on Napa gave Granite Bay a first and goal on the 4 with just over two minutes remaining, and Taft Partridge's three-yard touchdown run gave Granite Bay a 31-7 lead with 1:59 left. Napa's Tyler Burgess was ejected on the interception play, one of nine Napa penalties for 94 yards.

Cooper said this was the toughest first-round matchup Granite Bay has had since it played Grant in 2008.

"This got us ready for the playoffs," Cooper said. "We were ready before, but we didn't play like it, but this game got us into playoff mentality."


Napa               7   0   0     0--  7
Granite Bay   10   0   7   14--31

Napa-Scheinholz 13 run (Herrera kick)
GB-FG 30 Bermudez
GB-Bertolino 50 punt return (Bermudez kick)
GB-Bird 2 run (Bermudez kick)
GB-Bird 3 run (Bermudez kick)
GB-Partridge 3 run (Bermudez kick)


RUSHING-Napa, Sims 11-77, Scheinholz 10-36, Jones 9-38, Hunt 5-27, Madole 3-18. Granite Bay, Bird 13-62, Partridge 8-44, Mook 4-17, Keeney 2-4, Ellison 1-2, Bertolino 1-1.
PASSING-Napa, Sims 9-22-2, 144. Granite Bay, Keeney 11-21-1, 153.
RECEIVING-Napa, Gagetta 6-82, Martin 2-36, Scheinholz 1-26. Granite Bay, Wagner 4-47, Ellison 3-38, Briare 1-30, Bird 1-20, Serna 1-13, Partridge 1-5.