A look back at the fall high school sports season

Oakmont’s Garcia returns to the top; Granite Bay’s Lee stays there
By: Bill Poindexter/Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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This fall sports season seemed to last a little longer than most, and if you count three Granite Bay High School football players on the Sacramento roster for the Holiday Classic against an East Bay team, it won’t end until Friday night in Danville.

From its beginning nearly four months ago with Week Zero games in late August, high school sports brought Roseville and Granite Bay more of the same (Paige Lee of Granite Bay dominating the girls golf scene and Grizzlies girls tennis rolling to its fifth consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship), saw Oakmont’s Karlie Garcia regain her place at the front of the cross country pack and saw a longtime familiar face say goodbye when Chris Branson, the only boys soccer coach in 17 years at Woodcreek, decided to step down so he can spend more time with his growing — and athletic — children.

The sport suffered earlier losses when the U.S. Soccer Federation issued an ultimatum to those playing in its development academy: Play for your high school or us, but not both. Many chose the academy; a few chose high school.
In an age when the sports media lauds individual “stars,” Woodcreek relied on its team to achieve cross country success.

Here is a look back at the fall sports season:

Another blue banner for Granite Bay

Granite Bay won its fourth section football championship and its first in Division I with an impressive run through the playoffs.

The Grizzlies defeated Napa and Oak Ridge in the first two rounds before knocking off top-seeded Stockton-Lincoln 28-21 in the semifinals and No. 2 Pleasant Grove 30-24 for the title.

With 6-foot-6, 320-pound Gavin Andrews protecting quarterback Brendan Keeney — three-year starters both — and seniors Arik Bird, Adam Wagner and Spencer Briare leading the Grizzlies with their running and catching, Granite Bay made itself known by the time selections were made for CIF State Bowl Games, though San Jose-Bellarmine gained the Division I bid.

Granite Bay lost only to section champs Vacaville (Division II) and Del Oro (Division III).

“We felt like we were playing our best football at the end of the season,” head coach Ernie Cooper said.

Back to the front for Karlie Garcia

Little Karlie Garcia became a big name in cross country as an Oakmont freshman in 2009 when she advanced to the Foot Locker National Finals and finished 15th.

An ailment kept her out of competition last year, but she’s all the way back now.

Garcia blew away the competition at the Mt. SAC Invitational in October. She won the Division III sub-section race with a one-minute, 12-second margin of victory and followed by winning her second section championship.

After losing the lead in the final meters and placing second by one second in the Division III race at the state meet, Garcia and Oakmont coach Ryan Nugent put an emphasis on her finishing kick, and she won the Foot Locker West Regional in Walnut by nine seconds.

That qualified Garcia for the National Finals in San Diego, where she finished fifth.

“The last two races, she has really found some new speed we didn’t know she had,” Nugent said.

And she’s only a junior.

Big numbers on the field, in the classroom

Roseville didn’t top the Sierra Foothill League football standings, but the Tigers had the No. 1 offense in what is regarded by many as the top league in the section.

Quarterback Zac Cunha, son of coach Larry Cunha, led the SFL with 2,292 yards passing and a school-record 24 touchdowns. He averaged 20.6 yards per completion.

Running back Casey Lambert finished as the second-leading rusher all-time at Roseville with 3,376 yards. Pokey Eckford totaled 3,654 yards in 1989 and ’90.

Receiver Cody Lindner set a school record with 1,087 yards receiving. He scored 12 touchdowns and averaged 25.3 yards per catch.

On defense, McCory LeDesky led the SFL with 12 sacks, second-most in school history.

The Tigers did it with talent and smarts. Cunha has a 3.94 grade-point average and Lambert a 3.82 GPA.

Who could forget …

• Woodcreek junior Stephen Nogosek filling in for cramping quarterback Shaun Mize and scoring the final touchdown in a 70-54 victory over eventual Division III semifinalist Casa Roble. Nogosek, who also made several big plays as a receiver and returning kicks, might be better known as one of the best pitchers in the area.

• Granite Bay junior Paige Lee won her third SFL medalist honor in a row and shared the medalist honor at the section Masters meet. Maddie Gedeon of Oakmont was the Capital Valley Conference MVP for the second year in a row. Gedeon and Lee tied for eighth at the CIF/CGA Girls State Championship tournament.

• Granite Bay junior twins Chloe and Lily Forlini won their third Division II section doubles title in a row, and junior teammate Kammy Kecki won her first section singles crown.

• Woodcreek’s boys and girls cross country teams won Division II sub-section titles. Woodcreek’s girls then won the section meet with the boys second, and each made their eighth trip to the state meet.

• Granite Bay junior Trent Brendel won the Division II sub-section race.

• Woodcreek edged Granite Bay 10-9 on Oct. 11, handing the Grizzlies their first SFL boys water polo loss since returning to the league in 2006.

• Oakmont qualified for the section playoffs in girls water polo for the first time in 14 years.