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Grizzlies strong again, dump Bay Area power in opener

Granite Bay handles Pittsburg in Battle at the Capital
By: Galen Kusic, Press Tribune Correspondent
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The Granite Bay High football team set a strong tone for its season at Saturday’s Battle at the Capital classic as it knocked off a tough Pittsburg team 30-20 at Prairie City Stadium in Folsom. The Grizzlies controlled the ball the entire first quarter, and had two opportunities inside the red zone. On the first drive, Granite Bay reeled off 12 plays before Pittsburg cornerback Javen Butler intercepted Grizzly sophomore quarterback Brendan Keeney in the end zone. Granite Bay finally got on the board first with 33 seconds left in the first quarter on a 20-yard Adam Angulo field goal after a 13-play drive. Pittsburg only ran one series in the first quarter. "I thought we played hard, and I thought we at least matched their intensity and physicality," said Granite Bay head coach Ernie Cooper. "We worked really hard the past four weeks - we practiced a couple Saturdays and it really paid off." In the second quarter, just as it looked like Granite Bay would take over on an interception, a defensive pass interference kept the Pirates drive alive. Pittsburg stormed back with a quick, seven-play march capped by a 23-yard touchdown run by senior running back Erick Dargan to go on top 6-3 - after a missed point after attempt. Dragan was a thorn in the Grizzlies side all day, rushing 12 times for 96 yards and the touchdown. On Pittsburg's next series Granite Bay senior cornerback Nick Spring picked off a past from Pirate junior quarterback Julius Mosee. The Grizzlies drove down the field 65 yards on eight plays to set up a perfect fade route to the corner of the end zone from Keeney to senior wide receiver Ian Rhodes for a 19-yard touchdown to put Granite Bay up 10-6 at halftime. Rhodes and Keeney hooked up seven times for 78 yards in the first half. Rhodes ended with nine receptions for 115 yards and the touchdown. "Keeney is only a sophomore, but he played like a junior or senior today- that was huge," said Rhodes. "We were confident that we were going to win, but we have been preparing for Pittsburg since last year. They're fast, strong, and they hit hard - it was by no means easy." Granite Bay controlled the clock in the first half, running 38 plays to Pittsburg's 19. The Pirates had the ball to start the second half, only to turn it over four plays in when Mosee threw a pick to senior defensive back Andrew Knapp near midfield. "It was good to have turnovers on defense and get the offense the ball," said Knapp. "We wanted to keep the pressure on tackling, and not letting them stretch us out with their speed." The Grizzlies struck again on the following drive, this time in five plays- highlighted by a 16-yard touchdown run by junior fullback Cory Brehm. With 4:23 left in the third, the Pirates answered back when on fourth and goal from the 10, Mosee threw a strike to Robert Jiles, bringing Pittsburg back to within 17-12. "Mosee is a very talented kid," said Cooper. "One of our goals was to keep him in the pocket, and not let him get out and throw the ball all over the yard when the defense breaks down. Our d-line did a great job defending that." On the ensuing kickoff to Granite Bay, Danny Thomas had a huge return of fifty yards, which eventually set up a 23-yard completion to junior tight end Matt Kasner at the one. Kasner was stripped of the ball at the one by Pittsburg defenders, but the play was blown dead. Instead, the Grizzlies pushed the lead to 23-12 with 1:47 to go in the third when Keeney scored on the quarterback keeper. "Our coaches gave us some great schemes to work on at halftime, and our o-line really executed against those big athletic guys up front," said Keeney. With 11:32 to go in the fourth, Pittsburg recovered a fumble on the Granite Bay 20. They were unable to convert after back-to-back penalties pushed them back near midfield. It was too much for Pittsburg to overcome as Granite Bay put together another lengthy nine-play drive- as Brehm punched it in from four yards out to put the Grizzlies up 30-12 with just over five minutes to play. Brehm was a workhorse, carrying 12 times for 83 yards and two touchdowns and also caught two balls for 41 yards. "We knew that we have great coaches and players, so all we had to do was play our game," said Brehm. Pittsburg made it interesting with 3:34 to go when Mosee threw a perfect pass to Jermaine Sims in the back of the end zone for a 33-yard touchdown strike. The Pirates tried an onside kick, but it was to no avail as Granite Bay held on for the 30-20 victory. "When the game was still in doubt, we were able to mix up the run with the pass and execute well," said Cooper. "In our league, you can't just run or pass. I was happy we were able to do both today."