Granite Bay ends Trojans’ postseason run
By Mike Bush
GRANITE BAY — Time wasn’t on the side of the Oak Ridge High football team in the fourth quarter of Friday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division I quarterfinal game at Granite Bay.
After Trojan quarterback Jason Samuel hit senior wide receiver Dylan Collie on a 40-yard scoring strike with 8:09 left in the fourth quarter to trim the deficit to 14-12, all Oak Ridge needed was the pigskin back. Troy did get the ball back — unfortunately, after the Grizzlies had run six minutes off the clock and tallied a touchdown for a two-score lead.
With the Trojans in desperate need of a stop. Griz tailback Arik Bird carried the ball 11-of-the-16 plays during that time span and scored on a 5-yard run with an even two minutes left. After the extra-point kick by Nick Bermudez and free safety Alec Naki’s interception of a Samuels pass with 57 seconds left, Granite Bay owned a 21-12 victory to oust Oak Ridge.
Key for the Grizzlies was Spencer Briare’s bat-down of Samuels’ two-point conversion pass to preserve his team’s two-point lead.
The loss ends the Trojans’ season with an overall record of 7-5, including a third place finish in the Delta River League. Granite Bay, which took second place in the Sierra Foothill League, extends its overall record to 10-2 and earned next week’s trip to Stockton to play No. 1 seed Lincoln.
Samuels, returning to action after breaking his collarbone in week No.5, completed 17-of-28 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns, both to Collie, but did throw two interceptions.
“He executed,” Oak Ridge coach Eric Cavaliere said of Samuels. “He looked as if he didn’t miss a beat. We decided to go with Jason (over sophomore quarterback Jacob Sipes). He wanted to start — he wanted to play at least one more game with this group of seniors.”
Cavaliere gave credit to Granite Bay, which used third string sophomore quarterback Josh Neal through most of the game after Brendan Keeney, the Grizzlies’ starter who passed for 1,817 yards coming in, went down with a shoulder injury in the first quarter.
Granite Bay coach Ernie Cooper felt comfortable inserting Neal into the game.
“He stepped up and did the job,” Cooper said.
Leading 7-6 at halftime, Granite Bay extended to 14-6 in the third quarter as Neal (4-of-5, 44 yards) hit Taft Partridge on a 23-yard play-action screen pass with 8:35 left. Both teams traded punts until Oak Ridge scored its final touchdown of the 2011 season on Samuels’ second touchdown toss to Collie.
The physical play of the Grizzlies’ defensive line played a vital role Friday as most of the Trojan running backs were pushed behind the line of scrimmage.
“The quarterback goes down and they insert the next kid,” Cavaliere said. “Physically, they just took over tonight.”
Oak Ridge struck first in the first quarter thanks to its defense. Defensive tackle Xavier Lopez picked up a Grizzly fumble that spotted the ball at Granite Bay’s 29-yard line. Three plays later, Samuels hit Collie on a 24-yard pass but the failed extra-point kick left the score at 6-0.
Both teams exchanged punts going into the second quarter before Granite Bay’s defense came up big when it forced Oak Ridge to turn the ball over on downs at the Grizzly 20-yard line. The hosts put their fly offense to work with Bird carrying the ball eight-of-10 plays for 53 yards. With 3:49 left in the quarter, Bird scored on a 3-yard run with Nick Gordon booting the extra-point.
“They controlled the ball,” Cavaliere said. “They did exactly what they needed to do to win the football game. We didn’t take advantage of some opportunities in the first quarter. You just can’t do that against a good team like Granite Bay.”
Oak Ridge running back Shay Mueller stayed busy in the last prep game of his career with 13 carries for 27 yards and three receptions for 22 yards. Collie had nine receptions for 149 yards while Preston Dean had six carries for 21 yards.
Afterward, Cavaliere and each member of the coaching staff addressed the players at the north end of the field. Fighting back tears, Collie, whose time as a standout wide receiver for the Trojans also came to an end, spoke as well.
“I’ve got my best friends out here,” Collie said. “I’d give anything up for you guys. I love each and every single one of you.”
While hugging each of his senior players after the game, Calavaliere talked about the future of the Trojans.
Next season, Oak Ridge will continue playing Vista del Lago, Rocklin and Del Oro in nonleague games in week zero, 1 and 3, respectively, in a home-and-home series for the 2012-13 seasons. Troy is looking for new nonleague opponents to replace Cordova and Fairfield as those schools chose not to renew their home-and home series for week 2 and 5.
The Oak Ridge junior varsity team posted an 8-2 record to win the Delta River League title.
Stats courtesy of Haley Anderson