Granite Bay leaps past Woodcreek

Playoff-bound teams close out regular season
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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The somber scene that came at the conclusion of the game put football in a different perspective Friday night at Granite Bay High. With the Grizzlies cruising to a 34-10 win over Woodcreek, and less than two minutes to play, the game came to an end as medical crews rushed to the aid of referee Joel Miller, who collapsed with an apparent heart attack. While the players gathered in silence, medical staff administered CPR near the 20-yard-line. The official collapsed as he trailed a Woodcreek fake punt play on which Granite Bay’s Charlie Gordon was apparently knocked unconscious. Coaches and staff ran to the aid of Gordon and of Miller as spectators looked on in shocked silence. The game did not resume, the teams left the field and the large crowd eventually left the stadium with a different atmosphere than usually follows a high school football game. As far as the game went, this senior night came off just as Granite Bay coach Ernie Cooper hoped it would. “I was hoping we could finish just like this,” Cooper said. “We have been playing really well since our two little bumps against two very good teams. Tonight, we came out and finished off the season strong.” Using a combination of Devaunte Bolton runs and tosses from Brendan Keeney to Ian Rhodes, Granite Bay marched 50 yards in seven plays following a 43-yard kickoff return by Matt Kine to open the game. Safety Andrew Knapp picked off Woodcreek quarterback Matt Mazzuca on the Timberwolves’ first play, and the Grizzlies turned that into six more, and a fumble on Woodcreek’s second possession led to a third Granite Bay touchdown. That combination put the Grizzlies on top 20-0 after one quarter and basically sealed the game. “I know they were down some guys, but we attacked from the start,” Cooper said. “We hit a little lull there in the second quarter where we didn’t do much, but got it going again in the third.” Woodcreek played the game without two of its key players in running back James Nunley and two-way player Demetrio Cardenas. With a trip to the postseason already locked up, coach John Hildebrand elected to protect those two against further injury. “If it had been do-or-die, Nunley probably could have gone,” Hildebrand said. “Cardenas would most likely not have been able to go. We hope to have both for the playoff game next week.” The Timberwolves got a nice bonus as converted receiver Blake Cervantes got the bulk of the carries and delivered a 114-yard rushing night. “We had worked with him there a little over the summer and we think this could be our top runner a year from now so we went with him,” Hildebrand said. “Our goal was to get 100 yards out of him, and I think we did that.” Bolton got the big yards for Granite Bay with 20 carries for 137 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 39-yard bolt down the sideline to close out the scoring in the third quarter. One of the night’s big stories came on the defensive side of the ball for Granite Bay. In addition to forcing two big turnovers, the Grizzlies did a nice job at the line of scrimmage. Linebacker Jacob Kludjian was in the Woodcreek backfield all too often to disrupt the Timberwolves’ plans. Woodcreek (3-2 SFL, 4-6 overall) and Granite Bay (3-2, 8-2) finished in a three-way tie with Del Oro (3-2, 8-2) for second place in the SFL. Based on tiebreakers, the Grizzlies will take the No. 2 spot and Woodcreek the No. 3 spot as automatic qualifiers for the section playoffs. Del Oro will get in as an at-large team. Playoff brackets will be posted Saturday and postseason play begins next Friday night. Visit us at this Web site for playoff pairings Saturday night and coverage on into next week. The Grizzlies figure to get a home game to open the playoffs, but Cooper did not want to speculate. “We have played great football over the past three weeks and had two close losses to very good teams, so we expect good things (when the brackets are released),” Cooper said. “What they do is really out of our control so we’ll wait and see. For Woodcreek, the possibility of an opening round trip to Grant is a real possibility. “We have some great wins and have played a tough schedule,” Hildebrand said. “If those count for anything in seeding, we might get a break, but we have to lie in the bed we’ve made and at 4-6, we really can’t expect much. We’re just happy to be in the playoffs and we’ll face who we face.”