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Jamboree brings youth players live game action

SYFC prepares for season with day-long full-speed games
By: Brett Ransford, Press Tribune Correspondent
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Preseason is over and players now have a taste for their competition. The 2009 Sierra Youth Football and Cheer jamboree Saturday at Woodcreek featured three of the 10 teams in the Sierra Valley Conference. With the scoreboard turned off for the last time before contests begin to count next Saturday, teams got a chance to get a feel of full-speed game action. In midget division play, Granite Bay established its strength early running the ball, while Woodcreek had its hands full in its scrimmage with Foothill. When the teams (Jr. Grizzlies and Jr. Timberwolves) faced each other at two different times in the tournament, the birth of another season rivalry was exciting to watch. Woodcreek pounded the ball up to the red zone. Running back Malik Rodriguez was tenacious in getting around the outside defenders and gaining extra yardage. When faced with the final push into the end zone, Granite bay stuffed Woodcreek’s offensive chances at each opportunity. The Jr. Timberwolves’ second team substituted in and Granite Bay intercepted the first passing play. The Jr. Grizzlies then continued to hold firm with their backs to the goal line right up until play was finished. Big hits were a big part of the reason for the defensive success of Granite Bay. Even with some rotation confusions and first day jitters, the Jr. Grizzlies sat on Woodcreek’s offense. The second game allowed Woodcreek to showcase its defensive skills on the outside. In the first few drives, Granite Bay had a breakaway run to the end zone around the outside defense, but only to be caught at the one-yard-line. Granite Bay managed to pound out short yardage straight through the defensive line on the next play. The final play of the second scrimmage ended with a Woodcreek defender laying out the Jr. Grizzly runner. The run was stopped as both knees were down and extending the ball into the end zone came too little too late. It was a dramatic finish to a hard-hitting and thrilling preview of the season to come. The Jr. Grizzly Midgets won just two games last season, but the season opening jamboree was a different story. “We’re definitely going to compete in this league this year,” said Dan Ward, the head coach of the Jr. Grizzlies. “On a scale of 1 to 10 today I think we were a solid eight on both sides of the ball. We’re really looking forward to the regular season. Our inside running game looked good, but Woodcreek is going to be a force to be reckoned with.” Not only defensively, but offensively Woodcreek has some major talent. Rodriguez broke away at will. When he made it around the outside line he was there and gone in a flash of maroon. The Jr. Grizzlies hope they proved that they are positioned to earn more than two wins this season. Ward said he saw his team really take it to a talented outside defensive in Woodcreek. If the Jr. Grizzlies can continue to ram the ball up field on teams like Del Oro and Folsom then they are sure to plant themselves into the playoffs. Jr. Timberwolves quarterback Nick Riggi is new to the position. This is the first player in Coach Craik’s history he can remember having a true rookie quarterback at this level. Coach Craik headed the Midgets three years ago. Before that he coached Washington High School in the definitive Fremont Football League. “I think we saw a lot of good things we can build on,” Craik said. “We’re very young and some of the kids are a little undersized. We have a good tradition at Woodcreek, but I demand a lot. I also reward the kids when they do well.” The Jr. Timberwolves are going to need all of their veteran coach’s confidence in their season opener. They host the back-to-back SYFC Champion American River Jr. Raiders Saturday. Granite Bay is home to perennial powerhouse Del Oro Jr. Golden Eagles Saturday. FYI: SYFC game schedule for Saturday, Aug. 29 Woodcreek at American River Roseville at Antelope Granite Bay at Del Oro Oakmont at Folsom