Granite Bay wins Division I state bowl title
CARSON - Justin Ramirez sprinted toward the Granite Bay High School sideline, his helmet in his right hand, and pumped it skyward 11 times in succession. Big Luke Jarvis ran over to the wall and did a Lambeau Leap into into the arms of waiting fans.
The Grizzlies capped their first trip to the CIF State Bowl Games with their first state championship, edging perennial state and national power Long Beach Poly 21-20 in a constant drizzle Friday night at The Home Depot Center.
Senior Johnny Cooley, returning to the game after sustaining an injury to his right arm in the first half, scored the tying touchdown on a three-yard run with 1:12 remaining, and Colin Brown's extra-point kick gave Granite Bay (13-3) the lead.
Then on defense, with the Jackrabbits (12-4) down to their last heave on fourth and two from their 48-yard line, they went for it all, and Aaron Knapp made Granite Bay's fifth interception of the night with 25 seconds left to clinch the victory.
"You win state championships with defense," Granite Bay head coach Ernie Cooper said of the Grizzlies, who received two interceptions from Knapp, one from junior Luke Bussey and two from junior Dylan Keeney, including a 29-yard pick six that gave the Grizzlies their first lead at 14-7 with 4:36 left in the third quarter.
Keeney said the Grizzlies had a deep curl route pegged on the third-and-14 play.
"We knew it was coming," Keeney said after receiving his most extensive playing time of the season, a reward for hard work at practice and increased hard hitting on special teams over the course of Granite Bay's 12-game winning streak.
This was Poly's second loss to a Northern California team in a State Bowl Game. Grant defeated the Jackrabbits 25-20 in in the 2008 Open Division game.
"We thought, Grant came down and did this thing. We can go do this thing, too," Cooper said. "We can play with anybody, and we did."
Granite Bay was on a roll on both sides of the ball during its run to Sierra Foothill League, Sac-Joaquin Section and state championships, but the Grizzlies had problems with Poly in the first half. The speedy Jackrabbits cut off Tony Ellison on fly sweeps and plugged the gaps on runs by Taft Partridge and Cooley.
But after Poly took a 20-14 lead on Manusamoa Luuga's 11-yard run, the Grizzlies assembled a six-play, 77-yard drive that ended with Cooley's run.
"I am really at a loss for words," Knapp said. "This has been an unbelievable ride for us."
Said senior defensive back Nick Grace, "I'm so happy for my teammates, our fans, our band that comes everywhere for us. To win like we did in the last minute is a dream for us."
GRANITE BAY 21, LONG BEACH POLY 20
Granite Bay 0 3 11 7 - 21
Long Beach Poly 7 0 7 6 - 20
LBP - Wicks 39 pass from Jackson (Daniels kick)
GB - FG Brown 41
GB - FG Brown 37
GB - Keeney 29 interception return (Partridge run)
LBP - Smith 28 pass from Jackson (Daniels kick)
LBP - Luuga 10 run (kick failed)
GB - Cooley 3 run (Brown kick)
RUSHING - Granite Bay, Ellison 12-64, Cooley 12-48, Partridge 8-33, Caraway 3-minus 8, Geraghty 2-0, team 1-minus 1. Long Beach Poly, Luuga 14-104, Wicks 12-19, Jackson 1-6, Calhoun 1-minus 1, team 1-minus 1.
PASSING - Granite Bay, Caraway 11-23-0, 118. Long Beach Poly, Jackson 6-10-2, 141; Tiedemann 2-5-2, 20; Luuga 1-2-1, 20; Derrick 0-1-0, 0; team 0-1-0, 0.
RECEIVING - Partridge 4-46, Graber 3-38, Geraghty 2-15, Serna 2-15, Ellis 1-5. Long Beach Poly, Smith 2-63, Wicks 2-61, Derrick 2-26, Drummer 1-20, Tucker 1-10, Luuga 1-1.
Contact Bill Poindexter at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at BillP_RsvPT.