SFL superpowers collide in OT classic

Too much Pratt as Grizzlies fall to Del Oro in extra session
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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The huge crowd that assembled in the stadium at Del Oro High Friday night came expecting a show, and they certainly got their money’s worth. In a contest that certainly lived up to all the hype, Del Oro was the last team standing in a 27-21 overtime win over Granite Bay to open the Sierra Foothill League season. The two teams, both unbeaten in non-league competition, slugged it out for 48 minutes before finally settling matters in a tiebreaker that allowed each team a series from the opponent’s 10-yard line. “It was a great game,” Cooper said. “They just made one more play than we did.” These two long-time rivals who are often at the forefront of the SFL playoff chase delivered a classic contest that thrilled a crowd that was far beyond capacity for the stadium in Loomis. With the crowds filling the hill that surrounds the all-weather playing surface, the action on the field was fast and furious. "They're a good team,” said Del Oro coach Casey Taylor. “They're very well-coached. We've had battles with them throughout the years, and we were due. They kind of embarrassed us the last two times, and we wanted to come in here and reestablish ourselves. I think we did that tonight." Del Oro won the toss for the extra session and chose to play defense first, and after Angelo Pasquale intercepted a Brendan Keeney pass in the end zone to squelch the Grizzlies’ possession, it took running back Bryce Pratt two plays to punch it in to win the game for the Golden Eagles. “You always want to have the ball last in a situation like that,” said Granite Bay coach Ernie Cooper. “They won the toss and chose to play defense first, and we would have done the same thing.” The first half was classic ball control football as the offensive lines did their job and the two teams exchanged early body blows. The Golden Eagles had the rock first and took it 68 yards in eight plays, with Pratt powering in from 13 yards out for the initial score. Granite Bay answered with a 15-play, 60-yard march that consumed seven minutes of clock. The Grizzlies converted three third downs and one fourth down on the drive, which ended on a one-yard Keeney scoring plunge. Pratt had 13 carries on the subsequent Del Oro possession, as the Eagles ran 17 plays and chewed up 10 minutes before quarterback Max Magleby toted it the final four yards for the another touchdown. Granite Bay drove to the Del Oro 18 and turned the ball over on downs, but got one last chance with 24 seconds left. Just as it appeared that Cory Brehm had run the ball down near the Golden Eagle 20, a holding call far away from the action nullified the run and essentially ended the half with Del Oro on top by seven points. The Grizzlies scored on their first second half possession, a nine-play, 53-yard march, to even the score at 14-14, but Del Oro answered right back when Pratt busted through the line and fumbled only to have the ball bounce right back to him as he raced 58 yards for the go-ahead score. In all, the Del Oro senior carried the ball 41 times on the night, for 249 yards and three scores. “Pratt is a stud,” Cooper said. “When I first saw him run this year, I knew that he was a different back. He is really special. He has that toughness about him.” While the Grizzlies did not have a runner put up the scintillating numbers that Pratt delivered, Granite Bay’s runners matched the Del Oro workhorse in one critical area. No one who carried the ball in this game had any desire to go down. “We have a special guy of our own over there in No. 5 (Bolton),” Cooper said. “All of our runners were outstanding tonight. They excelled in giving that extra effort. They do not quit.” Bolton had 112 yards on 15 rushes for the contest. A scoring toss to tight end Matt Kasner at the end of the third period leveled the game at 21-21 and then the two defenses stiffened in the final 12 minutes. A Grizzly drive ended on back-to-back dropped passes to set up Del Oro’s attempt at a game-winning drive. After that tying score, the Grizzlies put the heat on Magleby and used a huge sack to force a Del Oro punt at the 9:59 mark of the final stanza. Granite Bay proceeded to take the ball from its own 41 to the Del Oro 33 before dropped passes on third and fourth down stalled the march and gave the Eagles the ball back with 6:12 to play in regulation. “We laid it all out there tonight,” Cooper said. “We told our guys that you have to play the whole game and we did that. It just didn’t go our way this time.” The Golden Eagles moved to the Granite Bay 17, and called timeout with just 10 seconds remaining to set up a 35-yard field goal attempt by talented kicker Ian Scott, but the kicker did not convert, setting up the overtime session. It was a disappointing end to an incredible night of energy for the Grizzlies, who now must go back to work in preparation for the rest of the Sierra Foothill League schedule. The interception in the extra session was a tough end for an otherwise strong night for Keeney, the sophomore signal caller. “We love him and he was connecting nicely tonight with Matt Kasner, a junior tight end,” Cooper said. “There is not a lot of space down there inside the 10, and this is a learning experience for him. We will see a lot of those two.” Keeney’s toss on the slant route at the goal line seemed destined for a Grizzly score before Pasquale stepped in front and picked the ball out of the air. “This will sting for tonight,” Cooper said. “These kids are resilient. They will be back. We knew coming in that this was a really good football team, and there are a lot of great offenses in the SFL this year, so we need to come ready every week.” The Grizzlies (0-1 in the SFL, 5-1 overall) host Rocklin (1-0, 6-0) in another huge battle next Friday night, while Del Oro (1-0, 6-0) welcomes Roseville (0-1, 2-4) to Loomis.