Roseville improves but falls short against Rio Linda

By: Nick Hunte/Roseville Press Tribune Correspondent
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RIO LINDA — Roseville High School came up short of a victory against Rio Linda on Friday night, but the Tigers are showing signs of improvement.

The Tigers fell to the Knights 24-20 in a close game that featured early offense and was decided on crucial plays late in the fourth quarter.

Roseville struck first just 15 seconds into the first quarter. Rio Linda responded with two touchdowns, the first a 51-yard touchdown pass and the second a nine-yard run to give the Knights a 14-7 lead. The Tigers never regained the lead.

Despite the loss, Roseville head coach Larry Cunha said his team played well and improved since its lopsided 44-7 loss to Cosumnes Oaks to open the season.

“For the most part, we played hard. There were just one or two plays that turned the tide,” Cunha said. “The improvement that our guys put forth, I’m proud of our guys in that respect, and if we fix those two or three mistakes, then we’re going to be OK. We just have to keep improving like we did from last week.”

Roseville committed three turnovers — one fumble and two interceptions.
With Rio Linda leading 24-20 going into the fourth quarter, the Tigers had two chances to regain the lead.

With 10:45 left, Roseville junior quarterback Kyle Downie threw a long interception that put Rio Linda on its 7-yard line. Roseville regained possession on downs and moved to the 1-yard line, but the Knights held off the threat.

The Tigers had one last opportunity to score with 1:41 left, but Downie threw an interception that sealed the victory for Rio Linda.

Downie completed 4 of 11 passes for 49 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.

Junior running back/defensive back Naim Hanifah said the struggles in the first half and the close plays in the second contributed to the loss.

“We just need to wrap up. If we would have wrapped up in the first half, we wouldn’t have allowed (Rio Linda) to get those big runs,” Hanifah said. “We came out to play in the second half, but we couldn’t get it done. We had those turnovers and we were on the goal line and just needed to push, and we just couldn’t. It was so close.”

Hanifah hurt his leg in the third quarter when fellow junior Jordan Kunaszyk ducked his head to tackle an opponent and took out Hanifah’s leg. Hanifah returned later in the quarter.

Roseville will play host to powerhouse Folsom on Sept. 7.

“We definitely have a tougher opponent next week, but our guys just need to … put out a week of great practices,” Cunha said. “I’m proud of the way our guys are working and when you work, good things happen.”

Roseville won the JV game 14-7.