QB Caraway cuts loose; Granite Bay takes out Del Oro

First place in SFL belongs to Grizzlies; Eagles need to win last two to make playoffs
By: Todd Mordhorst
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GRANITE BAY — Ernie Cooper knew his Granite Bay High School football team might need a little something extra to snap a three-game losing streak to Sierra Foothill League rival Del Oro.

Grant Caraway’s spry legs and a punishing defense lifted the Grizzlies to a 21-7 victory Friday night. They took pole position in the SFL title race while Del Oro (3-5 overall, 2-1 SFL) must win its final two games to have any hope at a Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berth.

The Granite Bay offense was sharp in the first half. Caraway fired a six-yard touchdown pass to tight end Steven Graber to cap an 82-yard drive and give the Grizzlies (5-3, 3-0) the lead. On their second possession, Caraway took the ball on a keeper and swerved outside before hurtling a Del Oro defender and dashing 45 yards to make it 14-0.

“We had not cut him loose in the last three or four games,” Cooper said of Caraway. “We’ve got two great backs with (Johnny) Cooley and (Taft) Partridge, and Tony Ellison has been special. But we had to find something extra for this game, and that was Grant Caraway running the ball.”

Del Oro star Brandon Monroe was held in check until he found a seam and broke free for an 80-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to give the visitors hope.

But Granite Bay gave itself breathing room when Caraway hit Ellison with a 27-yard touchdown pass late in the second quarter to make it 21-7. The Grizzly defense gave up just four first downs the rest of the game.

“It was a great game,” said Del Oro coach Casey Taylor, whose Eagles won the last two SFL titles. “They gave us some looks we hadn’t seen and hit us with some big plays early. Field position was huge. We had to go 70 or 80 yards every time we had the ball, and we couldn’t get anything going consistently on offense.

“Our defense did a great job of keeping us in the game, but credit coach Cooper and his team. They did a great job. It was their night.”

Cooper credited defensive coordinator John Roza for coming up with a scheme that crippled the Eagles’ offense. Granite Bay’s defensive line was ferocious, and sophomore linebacker Cameron Smith was constantly in the Del Oro backfield.

“We worked hard all week, we stayed strong mentally, and we were more physical,” said the 220-pound Smith, who quarterbacked the Grizzlies’ freshman team last season. “Our defensive line is one of the best in the area, if not the state. They’re all seniors, and they make it easy for the linebackers.”

The victory was especially gratifying for the Granite Bay seniors. Partridge hadn’t beaten Del Oro in two previous tries at the varsity level, but he was all smiles as he walked off the field Friday night.

“It’s a great feeling,” Partridge said. “We were determined, and we finally got it. We came out and got the first punch in and then we stuck together and pulled it out. Now we just have to keep the momentum rolling and see how far we can go.”

Del Oro will be host to Nevada Union and Rocklin to close the regular season and will need to finish second in the SFL to earn a postseason berth. Granite Bay finishes at Woodcreek and Nevada Union.