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Whitney opens PVL play Friday vs. Lincoln

Graves runs for three TDs in victory over Valley
By: Russ Edmondson The Placer Herald
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Undefeated Whitney High will open its Pioneer Valley League season against visiting Lincoln Friday. The Zebras, 0-3 on the season, have lost to Woodland (17-0), Wheatland (21-20) and Monterey Trail (36-14). Friday’s loss to Monterey Trail was in Elk Grove while the other two games were played at Lincoln. Lincoln rushed for nearly 200 yards against Monterey Trail with junior Alex Cowden leading the way on ground. “That’s our rival, we need to take care of them at home,” Whitney senior Taylor Irwin said. Whitney senior running back Zack Graves added that the Wildcats “will take this week seriously” despite Lincoln’s 0-3 record. “It’s three games and you don’t know who is good and who is not yet,” Whitney coach Mike Gimenez said. The game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Graves ran for three touchdowns and threw for another as Whitney crushed visiting Valley 35-6 in its home opener Friday night. Graves, who has rushed for nine touchdowns and thrown for two more on the season, finished the night with 17 carries for 172 yards. “They came out in a different defense than we expected and our offensive line got a good push up front and opened up the defense,” Graves said. Irwin also was a key player for the Wildcats, making an interception and touching the ball three times for 37 yards on offense. “There was lots of excitement (being at home),” Irwin said. Whitney opened up the game with the ball and Graves capped a 64-yard drive with a one-yard run on a direct snap to put the Wildcats up 7-0. Valley followed that up with a punt and Graves scored on Whitney’s next play, a 67-yard run to put Whitney up 14-0 with 4:30 left in the first quarter. The rout appeared to be on but Valley, led by senior running back Marquis Dixon, drove 80 yards on its second possession to close the gap to 14-6. Graves would add another one-yard touchdown with 3:35 left in the half and he threw a short pass to Nick Law to give Whitney a 28-6 lead at the half. Law was 5-for-5 on extra points in the game. “It’s mostly trick plays, we throw in a pass here or there,” said Graves about how much he works on throwing the ball. Gimenez was fired up about winning at home. “It’s good to be at home – lots of excitement,” he said. “(Valley’s running backs Dixon and William Evans) are good and we don’t see a lot of backs like that in our league (Pioneer Valley League) and it’s great to play them in the pre-season.” Irwin thinks that Whitney will have to play better defense against the run in the league season. “Our tackling was a big problem – we’ll do lots of tackling (in practice) this week,” he said. Gimenez pointed out that Graves “does everything” but also praised the play of his offensive line for creating opportunities for Graves. Whitney quarterback Charlie Hetland, a senior, was 6-for-9 passing for 91 yards with an interception. He also threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to senior Jake Snyder to put the Wildcats up 35-6 in midway through the third quarter. Snyder was his top target as he finished with three catches for 57 yards. “(Hetland) is improving,” Gimenez said. “There is so much to learn. He learned a lot last year and there is still some to learn this year. He’s getting to where we can run him a little bit to.” Junior Varsity Whitney 48, Valley 0 Shawn Azam caught two touchdown passes from Angelo Pasquale, ran in a touchdown and returned a kick for a score in Whitney’s blowout of Valley Friday night. Pasquale also had an 80-yard touchdown run and threw a touchdown to Justin “uku” Martinez. Uku means flea in Hawaiian and Martinez’ coaches and teammates call the 5-foot-2 receiver that. Whitney’s Jacob Coelho returned an interception for a touchdown in the game.