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Tigers top Grizzlies in instant classic

Surprising Roseville and Woodcreek sit atop SFL
By: Kurt Johnson, Press-Tribune sports editor
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In another sign of its emergence as a major player not only in the Sierra Foothill League, but also in the Sac-Joaquin Section, the Roseville High School football team went at it toe to toe with previously unbeaten Granite Bay on Friday night and emerged with a thrilling 35-34 victory. The Tigers went to the air early and often, as quarterback Mike Moreno used his arm as well as his legs in leading his squad to the big win that leaves Roseville tied with Woodcreek atop the SFL standings with two weeks to play. The Tiger signal caller completed 15 of 23 passes for 274 yards and three scores and also rushed for 108 yards. The Grizzlies and Tigers went back and forth in a steady rain on a Halloween night that produced a classic football game between two outstanding teams. “It’s a shame there had to be a loser in a game like this,” Roseville coach Larry Cunha said as he hurried to enjoy the moment with his players. “This is a great win for our team.” “I am disappointed for our guys,” Granite Bay coach Ernie Cooper responded, “but I am really happy for Larry (Cunha) and his coaches. We have been on that side many times before.” Roseville moved the ball well on its first possession, mixing the short passing game with an occasional run, but an incomplete pass into the end zone ended the drive, and Zach Tapia field goal attempt from 37 yards out was blocked by Granite Bay’s Ryan Loder. The two teams traded possessions before Roseville struck first just before the end of the opening quarter. After taking over on downs at their own 29-yard line, it took the Tigers just three plays to hit pay dirt. Moreno found running back Zack Davis behind the Granite Bay secondary and hit him in stride with a 58-yard scoring strike to put Roseville out in front. “Moreno made great reads and throws tonight,” Cunha said of his signal caller. The Tigers gave one back early in the second stanza when Colton Paulhus sacked Moreno, forcing a fumble that was returned 22 yards by Loder for the tying touchdown. Roseville answered quickly, using a halfback pass from Davis to Kyle Bennett to pick up 38 yards on the way to an Aaron Wagoner 1-yard touchdown dive. A 50-yard scoring run by the Grizzlies’ Clark Partridge evened the score at 14 with 4:52 remaining before the break, but the Tigers once again responded, getting into the end zone before intermission to take a 21-14 halftime lead. Roseville moved the ball 75 yards in 10 plays, culminating on a three-yard dash into the end zone by Moreno. It took the Grizzlies just three plays after intermission to get things back even, with a Justin Sutter 63-yard romp setting up Partridge for a five-yard blast that tied the game 21-21. Granite Bay forced a punt on Roseville’s next opportunity, and then it was Partridge’s turn to set up Sutter, as the senior fullback broke off a 29-yard run to put the Grizzlies in position for the go-ahead score on a seven-yard Sutter ramble with 4:49 left in the third. Once again, the Tigers wasted little time in responding, taking the ball 65 yards in five plays, and scoring on an 11-yard Moreno to Bennett pass play. After shutting down the Granite Bay offense at their 43-yard line, Roseville put an exclamation point on the third period on the first play after a Granite Bay fake punt attempt failed. It was Davis again on the receiving end of a Moreno dart down the seam, with this toss covering 57 yards for a score. Granite Bay’s first fourth quarter drive ended deep in Roseville territory when the Grizzlies turned the ball over on downs at the Tigers’ 21-yard line, but Granite Bay forced a punt and got the ball back with just over six minutes remaining. The Grizzlies put together another impressive drive in search of the tying score, and this time Teddy Bryant scored on a keeper on the 12th play of the march to pull Granite Bay within one at 35-34 within 1:26 to play. Disregarding the chance to play for a tie, Cooper made the gutsy call as the Grizzlies went for two, but Roseville’s Christian Christe penetrated into the offensive backfield to blow up the play and drop Partridge for a loss. Fittingly, Moreno was on the spot again on the ensuing onside kick, and he recovered the ball to all but seal the deal for Roseville. A personal foul penalty against the Grizzlies gave Roseville a first down on a third and long play, allowing the Tigers to run out the clock to lock down the win. “We were playing to win,” said Granite Bay coach Ernie Cooper with regard for the attempted two-point conversion. “Roseville has amazing athletes, and they really put on a show tonight.” Granite Bay (2-1 in the SFL, 7-1 overall) will regroup and continue its preparations for a playoff berth that is sure to follow at the end of the regular season. The Grizzlies visit Oakmont (0-3, 2-6) next week before closing out the season at Woodcreek. “Now we will find out what we are made of,” Cooper said. “We will see how we handle adversity.” The Timberwolves (3-0, 5-3) are the surprise team in the SFL mix. After knocking off Del Oro on Friday night, Woodcreek will visit Roseville (3-0, 6-2) next Friday night in a battle for league supremacy. “Those who doubted us will have to take a second look now,” Cunha added. “We are getting better and better every week.”