Lakeside neighbors collide in quarterfinal classic
Week one was just a warm-up act to the real battles coming as the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs resume Friday night.
While both Granite Bay and Folsom made short work of overmatched opponents last Friday night, this week will be a far different story for the teams residing at opposite ends of Folsom Lake.
Folsom has put up ridiculous numbers with a passing game that is unmatched in the region. The Grizzlies counter with a defense that holds the opposition to fewer than two touchdowns per contest.
“It’s going to be a challenge to stop them,” said Folsom coach Kris Richardson. “Offensively, if we can protect our quarterback and not turn the ball over, I think we can have success. When we’re able to control the ball, we think we can score on a majority of our drives.”
Something has to give on Friday night when Dano Graves and his 325 yards per game passing game stares down a fierce Granite Bay pass rush led by Mike Wade and Jacob Kludjian. Senior safety Andrew Knapp and his friends in the Granite Bay secondary have been solid all year, but they have not seen a passing attack to match this one.
“They do a very good job on both sides of the ball,” said Granite Bay coach Ernie Cooper. “They execute to an incredibly high degree on offense and have a good, fast, physical defense.”
Graves completes 75 percent of his passes and has tossed 45 touchdowns in the 10 games he has played this year. Incredibly, with the ball in the air that much, the junior signal caller has thrown just six interceptions.
As if his two 400-yard passing nights and four others in which he exceeded 300 yards were not enough, the 5-foot-10 quarterback is also his team’s leading ball carrier with 615 rushing yards.
The problems for the Grizzly secondary are great as this is clearly not a one-man show. Graves goes up top a lot, and he spreads the ball all over the yard.
“We can’t let the four-yard play turn into 12, and we have to avoid having them get the big 40-yard play,” Cooper said. “We just need to play good team defense.”
At 6-3, 195 pounds, Kori Babineaux is the name we have all heard, and his 53 grabs for 992 yards and 14 scores is impressive. Despite those staggering numbers, the junior is not even his team’s leading receiver. That honor goes to 5-11, 185-pound junior Tyler Trosin, who has 62 catches for 1,212 yards and a startling 21 touchdowns.
“It’s hard to believe that they do all of this while starting mostly juniors,” Cooper said. “They’re really good this year and they’re going to be really good again next year.”
Running back Jordan Richards has 40 receptions as well for a multi-dimensional offensive attack that will be the biggest test of the season for Granite Bay’s defense.
It will be important for Cooper’s crew to keep Graves and company standing on the sidelines, and they should be able to move the ball against a Folsom defense that has been somewhat susceptible to the run.
“We won’t do anything all that different this week than we normally do,” Cooper said. “We just need to keep doing what we do. The kids are really getting it now and we are playing real well. Would we like to put together a couple of seven or eight minute drives? You’d better believe it, but we need to execute at a high level and we’ll do fine.”
One thing that would be a good sign for Granite Bay would be a punter sighting, from the Folsom sideline. If his defense can force the Bulldogs to send this seldom-used punter onto the field, Cooper believes they will be in good shape.
““No one’s stopped these guys,” Cooper said. “We have to play good team defense and avoid giving up big plays. They don’t punt a whole lot so if we can get them to punt a couple of times, we can make this a competitive game.”
Even though the Bulldogs routed Woodcreek last week, two Timberwolf runners went over the century mark against Folsom’s defense. Expect Granite Bay to go with a heavy dose of the ground game with a quartet of solid backs.
“Granite Bay is as good as advertised,” Richardson said. “They’re up there with Pleasant Grove as the best teams we’ve faced this season. Offensively, they’re the best team we’ve seen in terms of being able to both run and pass the ball. Defensively, they’re fundamentally sound and aggressive.”
Fullback Travis Nicholas is a big key to the Granite Bay rushing attack both as the lead blocker for the Grizzly halfback and flybacks and as a powerful inside ball carrier. Devaunte Bolton is Granite Bay’s leading runner, as he provides both an inside power game and the speed to break the big play. Senior Matt Kine and junior Cory Brehm continue to split time at the flyback position, and both have the ability to make big plays in the running game, the passing game and as kick returners.
Sophomore quarterback Brendan Keeney seems to grow in confidence with each game, and he has a big-play receiver of his own in senior Ian Rhodes. That duo has hooked up for big play after big play while Granite Bay has dominated its last four opponents.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday as fourth-seeded Folsom and No. 5 Granite Bay close out Thanksgiving week with what should be a classic postseason battle.
What: Sac-Joaquin Section Division II football quarterfinals
Who: Granite Bay at Folsom
Where: Prairie City Stadium, Folsom High School
When: Friday night, 7 p.m. kickoff
Ticket prices: Adults $9 and students $5 with school ID. Elementary students are $5. Senior citizens are $5. Playoff ticket prices set by the California Interscholastic Federation Sac-Joaquin Section.
Arrival by 6:30 p.m. is strongly recommended.
Full coverage: Watch for pre-game and post-game blogs and stories at rosevillept.com and placersports.com
Granite Bay 9-2, three-way for second place Sierra Foothill League
Folsom 10-1, three-way tie for first place in the Delta River League
When Granite Bay has the ball:
Granite Bay - 35 points, 144 yards passing and 261 yards rushing per game
Folsom – yields 21.5 points per game
When Folsom has the ball:
Folsom – 47 points, 323 yards passing and 165 yards rushing per game
Granite Bay – yields 13 points per game
More than you needed to know:
Granite Bay's holiday week preparation
Granite Bay’s Ernie Cooper has set his practice schedule for this week with the Thanksgiving holiday in mind.
“We understand that this is a family time and while almost everyone will be at practice even on Thursday morning, a couple of guys will miss that one and we work with that,” Cooper said. “It’s just high school football.”
The Grizzlies practice Wednesday morning to allow those who will need to travel for the holiday to miss just the one practice on Thursday morning.