Del Oro storms back to stun Folsom

Pratt carries Eagles into section final, rematch with Rocklin
By: Eric J. Gourley, Journal Sports Writer
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FOLSOM — As mayhem engulfed Prairie City Stadium and Del Oro High students flooded the field, Kevin Bracy only smiled. He didn’t celebrate the Golden Eagles’ monumental 43-42 comeback win over Folsom High in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division II semifinal, but the motivational speaker watched with pride as Del Oro players cried tears of joy following the biggest victory of their young lives Friday night. Tailback Bryce Pratt had three 1-yard touchdown runs in the final seven minutes and scored the game-winning two-point conversion with 40 seconds left as the No. 8 Eagles came back from a 35-7 halftime deficit to stun the No. 4 Bulldogs. Folsom’s Dillon Wessing attempted a 22-yard field goal with a second left on the clock but Del Oro’s Brandon Markin tipped the ball, which bounced off the crossbar and fell back into the end zone. Bracy, a baseball star at Mesa Verde High, American River College and University of Utah who played two years of professional ball in Canada before becoming a fulltime motivational speaker, exchanged business cards with Del Oro head coach Casey Taylor at a character combine. Bracy was asked to talk to the Eagles before their Sierra Foothill League opener, an overtime win over archrival Granite Bay. Del Oro coaches requested another speech Thursday night during the Eagles’ team dinner. The mantra? “It’s ‘DO’able.” Players took the phrase to heart, repeating it each time the Bulldogs tacked on a first-half score. Even after Folsom star Dano Graves capitalized on Del Oro’s third turnover of the half to give the Bulldogs a four-touchdown cushion heading into halftime, there was optimism on the sideline. “Kevin’s an awesome guy,” Del Oro quarterback Max Magleby said. “He puts some magical words in you. Anything is doable if you believe. We went into halftime and talked to each other. You’re looking up at the scoreboard like ‘wow,’ but once you realize that’s not a lot, we can come back and make that up easily, we just did what we had to do.” The task would have appeared insurmountable to most teams, but not these Eagles. Graves accounted for a remarkable 388 yards of first-half offense, scoring on a 79-yard run on the second play of the game. His 10-yard touchdown run later in the quarter capped a 99-yard drive after Pratt fumbled the ball away at the 1-yard line. Pratt answered with a 74-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-inches and the Del Oro defense quickly forced Folsom to punt, but the Bulldogs (11-2) got the ball right back when Pratt fumbled again on the first play of the ensuing drive. “I started getting down on myself and I started worrying about my sore ankle too much,” said Pratt, who finished with a career-high 327 yards on 39 grueling carries. Graves continued to score at will, taking advantage of Del Oro’s turnovers. He converted a Magleby interception into a 67-yard touchdown pass with a minute left in the half to put the Eagles in a deeper hole. “We were trailing big time at half and you could tell the spirit of the team was starting to go down, but us seniors stepped up in the locker room and told everybody that this game wasn’t over,” said wide receiver Freddie Cargile, who made three huge plays down the stretch. “We had to get it going. We’ve worked our butts off the last four years trying to get to this point and we weren’t going to let it slip away from us.” Angelo Pasquale’s 26-yard touchdown run capped a five-play, 65-yard touchdown drive less than two minutes into the third quarter. Del Oro’s defense pressured Graves for the first time and forced the Bulldogs to punt. Pratt’s 43-yard breakaway highlighted a 59-yard touchdown drive on the ensuing possession. Magleby scored from eight yards out to get the Eagles (11-2) back into the game, 35-21. Graves restored order later in the third quarter, hooking up with wide receiver Tyler Trosin for their second touchdown. Folsom looked to be back in control until Cargile intercepted Graves early in the fourth quarter. Behind a strong offensive line, Pratt plunged into the end zone to cut the deficit to 42-28 with 6:46 left. Ian Scott followed with consecutive onside kicks, both of which were recovered by Cargile. “I’m not going to lie, I was pretty nervous going into it but I was determined to kick it right, and I did it with my team behind me,” Scott said. “There’s no thought process. I just can’t believe we got both of them.” Added Cargile: “That’s the hardest kick Ian could ever do, and he nailed it twice.” Pratt scored with 3:28 remaining to make it 42-35, then sent Del Oro fans into a frenzy when he dove into the end zone on a second-and-goal with less than a minute remaining. “We thought, ‘hey, we have momentum, let’s do it,” Taylor said. Pratt’s conversion run left was never in doubt. “Our team has played with a lot of heart all year,” Taylor said. “Last week we saw it, and we saw it throughout the year. We’ve been down and we find a way to get back. Obviously this one’s worth a little more than most, but the kids just fought. We never give up.” It took one more stand from Del Oro’s defense. Graves led the Bulldogs down to the 5-yard line, where Markin broke through to get his left hand on Wessing’s field goal. “I came out at half and I was completely calm, knowing we could come back and win this,” Markin said. “It’s never done till the last second.” Del Oro will seek revenge against an SFL foe when it takes on No. 2 Rocklin Friday at UC Davis, looking for its first section crown since 2005. The Thunder, who held off No. 3 Grant 21-19 at Folsom High Saturday night, handed the Eagles a tough loss earlier this season.