Oak Ridge topples Granite Bay in the SJS quarterfinalsBy: Ike Dodson■Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
Oak Ridge High’s football team scored 14 unanswered points in the second half and capitalized on three interceptions to overcome visiting Granite Bay 28-17 Friday.
Granite Bay led 17-14 at the half, but Oak Ridge vaulted into the lead when a Drew Lackowski interception set up a 42-yard jump-ball touchdown for Justin Priest.
Victor Bunce would stifle two of the next four Granite Bay drives with interceptions and catch a seven-yard touchdown from Ian Book. His late efforts enabled Oak Ridge to advance to the semifinal round of the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs on Nov. 29 (against visiting Pleasant Grove).
The outcome halted Granite Bay’s three-year playoff win-streak and avenged victories over the Trojans in both the 2011 and 2012 brackets. Granite Bay beat Oak Ridge in the SJS finals last year.
“We waited 51 weeks for this game,” Oak Ridge senior running back Josh Wellman (19 rushes, 113 yards, touchdown) said. “They have taken us out of the playoffs two times in a row.
“Third times the charm.”
“Getting revenge on Granite Bay just felt really good,” Bunce added. “It was an awesome team win.”
Granite Bay outgained Oak Ridge 265-257 in total offensive yards, but the Trojans avoided late mistakes. Oak Ridge got into trouble early when a muffed punt-attempt set up Josh Neal’s five-yard scoring strike to Marc Ellis.
Neal ended 16 for 33 for 230 yards. He found Ellis twice for scores, but threw three interceptions across a span of his last nine passes.
Ellis was surprisingly sharp in his first game back in a month. The senior previously considered to be lost for the year managed nine catches for 115 yards.
“I wanted this so badly,” Ellis said. “I would do anything to get to that ball.”
After Oak Ridge’s Tanner Hughes scored from a yard out, Ellis hauled in a 41-yard touchdown to give the Grizzlies a 14-7 lead at the end of the first quarter
Wellman would break loose to tie the game, but Dominic Scotti booted a 35-yard field goal to give Granite Bay the lead at the break.
Granite Bay struggled to run the ball, with only 18 yards on 26 carries. Brian Graber (five catches, 83 yards) and Dylan Keeney (3-47) aided the aerial attack.
“We had a tough time running in between the tackles,” Granite Bay coach Skip Albano said. “We knew we would, but we still tried.”
Michael Geraghty (senior) led Granite Bay with 13 rushes for 56 yards.
“I just can’t believe that this is the last time I get to suit up with this team,” Geraghty said. “It’s definitely painful.”
With the win, Oak Ridge joins an all-Delta River League cast in the SJS semifinals. Folsom (49-16 over Franklin), Jesuit (49-28 over Tracy) and Pleasant Grove (42-28 over Stagg also captured quarterfinal glory.
“It’s an all DRL semifinal and I think that answers where the best league is coming from,” Oak Ridge coach Eric Cavaliere said. “We knew that all along. We are excited to play our Delta River League rival, Pleasant Grove.”