Grizzlies come up short at Grant

Fourth-quarter flags damage late Granite Bay charge
By: Kurt Johnson, Press-Tribune sports editor
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It was a game with the intensity and skill of a section championship game, but due to the luck of the draw, Friday night’s classic battle between the Granite Bay High School football team and No. 1 ranked Grant was a first round contest in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs. The two teams went at each other like the champions they are, and the game had all the look of one of those matchups that goes to the team that has the ball last. For a few minutes late in the fourth quarter that team appeared to be Granite Bay, but a pair of unfortunate big penalties helped to curtail the Grizzlies drive to the promised land and left Ernie Cooper’s squad on the short end of a 22-19 final score. “We gave every inch of our soul out there and executed every play,” Cooper said. “We were on our way that last drive, and were about to score with a few seconds left to win this game. These kids were not going to be denied.” The game began with an electric opening drive performance by Pacer running back Devontae Booker, who broke off a 47-yard run on Grant’s second play from scrimmage and then toted the pigskin the final 11 yards to pay dirt on the net play. On the night, Booker carried the ball 14 times for 131 yards and a pair of scores. Granite Bay responded as it did all night long, sending the message that it could play with the top ranked team in the section. The Grizzlies took possession of the ball on their own 23 after Grant’s quick strike and moved it methodically down the field on an 18-play, 77-yard scoring march. Brad Crisanty, Justin Sutter and Clark Partridge took turns toting the ball and Granite Bay converted six consecutive third downs on the scoring drive that consumed more than eight minutes. Partridge blasted in from one yard out, and the point after evened the score at 7-7. A 10-play, 69-yard drive from Grant put the Pacers back on top, and a bizarre sequence on the extra point attempt had a huge impact on the rest of the game. The snap from center was wide and left holder Darvin McCauley with few options as the Grizzlies bore down for a certain block of the kick. McCauley rose up and raced into the end zone for an unintended two-point conversion to put Grant up by a 15-7 count. Granite Bay would find itself chasing that accidental additional point the rest of the night. Once again the Grizzlies responded to the Grant score, taking the ball 78 yards in 10 plays, with a 28-yard dash to the end zone by Justin Sutter capping another balanced drive. Two more converted third downs were key as was a 26-yard hookup from quarterback Teddy Bryant to tight end A.J. Herlitz. In an attempt to get back even, Granite Bay went for two, but came up short on an incomplete pass into the end zone. The teams went to the break with Grant clinging to that 15-13 advantage. “The first half of this game was amazing,” Cooper said. “The two best teams in the section going at it with all they had.” After a scintillating first half, the final 24 minutes was notable for the number of penalty flags that littered the field and altered the landscape of the game. Granite Bay opened the half with another display of flawless execution of their game plan, running Crisanty and Partridge hard inside, while springing Sutter to the edges and then mixing in an occasional pass play to keep the chains moving. This time it was Crisanty who scored the touchdown, stepping in from one yard out to give the Grizzlies their first lead of the night at 19-15. Once again, Granite Bay went for two and was unable to convert, leaving the margin at four points. Grant quarterback Kipeli Koniseti responded once again, putting the finishing touches on a 57-yard march with a 15-yard scoring burst that gave the Pacers the 22-19 lead. The final Granite Bay possession of the third period was the first sequence in the game on which the Grizzlies did not score, other than the possession that ran out of time at the conclusion of the first half. Grant recovered a Crisanty fumble at they Granite Bay 38-yard line, putting Granite Bay in jeopardy of falling more than one score behind, but the defense responded, stopping the Pacers on a fourth-and-10 from the Granite Bay 11-yard line to give the ball back to the Grizzly offense. In its most impressive work of the night, Granite Bay attacked the Pacers, going about its business once again, with a 17-play drive that included a daring fourth down conversion at its own 20-yard line as Crisanty picked up the yard that was needed plus three more. The Grizzlies converted three additional third downs on the final drive before the yellow hankies got them. A first down run by Sutter was negated by a personal foul call after the play that left Granite Bay first-and-17 at the Grant 40 instead of second-and-two at the 25-yard line. On second down and 17, Bryant lofted a beautiful ball to Ian Rhodes that went to the Grant 12-yard line, but a late flag for an illegal block in the offensive backfield took the Grizzlies all the way back to their own 39-yard line for a third-and-38 situation. Two desperate heaves later and its fate was sealed, ending Granite Bay’s season and sending the Pacers (11-0) on to the section semifinal contest against Woodcreek (6-5), a 31-24 winner over Oak Ridge on Friday, next Friday night. The disappointing nature of the loss was hard to take on the Granite Bay sidelines, as the Grizzlies (9-2) see their season come to an end. “Congratulations to Grant,” Cooper said. “They are a great football team and a class program. The way this one ended was hard, and our guys left it all out there tonight. As frustrated as I am at the way it ended, I am much more so proud of our team. You saw a great Granite Bay football team out there tonight.”