CARSON, Calif. — Granite Bay
football coach Ernie Cooper kept muttering to anyone on the sideline who would listen.
"We just need one. ... We just need one."
One would be a touchdown drive, something his offense hadn't done all night against a fast and ferocious Long Beach Poly
But when Poly missed an extra point following a 10-yard touchdown run by Manusamoa Luuga
with 3 minutes, 47 seconds to play, Cooper knew it was time.
Down 20-14, the Grizzlies put together a six-play, 77-yard beauty keyed by Taft Partridge
and capped off with a 3-yard touchdown run by John Cooley
to give Granite Bay a terrific 21-20 victory in the CIF Division I State Championship Bowl game before 7,361 fans at the Home Depot Center.
"We needed one and we got one," Cooper said after the victory. "That was a thing of beauty."
As was the game between three-loss teams. But Granite Bay, a little-known program from Placer County in the Sac-Joaquin Section, knocked off one of the nation's most famous programs. It was the second time a SJS squad knocked off Poly in a CIF Bowl game, the other was a 25-20 win by Grant in the 2008 Open Division game.
"I have great respect for Long Beach Poly and Grant," Cooper said. "But all week I was thinking if Grant can pull this off, we can too. And you know what? We did."
Poly (12-4) took what looked to be the clincher on Luuga's score. When Poly missed the extra point, it didn't seem a big deal to most because Granite Bay hadn't scored on offensive touchdown all game.
That wasn't the attitude of the Grizzlies, who seemed to believe a game-winning drive was their destiny.
"My first thought when that extra point was missed is we're going down the field and win this thing," Cooper said.
Said Granite Bay quarterback Grant Caraway
: "(When the extra point was missed) I didn't have to pump up anyone. They were all ready to go. They knew they could do it. It was just a matter of executing. We've been doing it all year."
The Grizzlies (13-3) drove right down the field behind senior fullback Partridge, who caught a 32-yard screen pass from Caraway
and rattled off three runs of 34 yards to set up Cooley's heroics.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior is the fourth and final Partridge brother to go through the Granite Bay program. Cooper had used used him sparingly all night - he finished with just eight carries for 33 yards and four catches for 48.
"But that was by design," Cooper said.
The Grizzlies have a trio of backs — two 1,000-yard rushers, Cooley and Tony Ellison — but Partidge has been their man in the fourth quarter in the team's double tight end "tank formation" that also features Bryce Mantell.
"The fourth quarter is Taft Partridge time," Cooper said. "He's in such great shape and he runs low to the ground. He's a winner in every thing he does."
Poly had time to get into field goal range, but Aaron Knapp
intercepted his second pass of the game — Granite Bay's fifth interception of the night — to seal it.
"Let's face it," Cooper said. "We did some nice things on offense and we came through in the end. But our defense won this game tonight. ... I told someone this week you don't just win championships with defense, you win state championships with defense. And that's what we did tonight."
Defense and some grit.
"We dug deep inside us," said junior linebacker Dylan Keeney
., who had two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown. "This team just has great heart. Pulling out games late — that's what we do."
Down 7-3 at halftime, Granite Bay scored 11 unanswered points in the third quarter to take a 14-7 lead heading into the fourth.
A 37-yard field goal by Colin Brown
cut the lead to 7-6 and then the Grizzlies took their first lead when Keeney
intercepted his second pass of the game — the team's third of the game — and returned it 29 yards for a score with 4:36 left in the third quarter. A 2-point conversion by Partridge gave the Grizzlies a 14-7 lead.
Keeney, a 6-foot-5, 200-pounder, has been a reserve all season and worked his way into special package situations. He played most of Friday's game but never imagined himself to be such a key player in such a big spot.
"Long Beach Poly is a great team and program," he said. "They've been in a lot of big games over the years. None of us had been on a stage quite like this. To come out here and win it is unbelievable."
But Poly came right back with a 83-yard scoring on 10 drives capped by an absolutely beautiful 28-yard scoring strike from Eban Jackson II
to John Smith
, who was sandwiched by two Granite Bay defenders. Jackson threaded the needle and Smith made a tough catch to tie the score at 14 heading into the fourth quarter.
Poly used some trickery to take a 7-0 lead with 1:15 left in the first quarter. Quarterback Jackson handed the ball to Gerard Wicks
who handed to Thomas Tucker
who flipped it back to Jackson.
Off his back leg, Jackson flung the ball down the right side to a wide open Wicks, who caught the ball at the 12, broke one tackle at the 5 before sprinting into the end zone to complete a 39-yard touchdown play. The touchdown came after Granite Bay drove 30 yards on its first drive, only to miss a 42-yard field goal by Colin Brown
Brown redeemed himself with 3:44 left in the half with a 41-yard field goal after an interception by
at the Poly 42. A 4th-and-3 offside by Poly kept Granite Bay's drive alive and gave Brown the extra yards he needed to make the field goal.
Luuga forced a pass on Poly's next possession and Luke Bussey
intercepted and returned to the Poly 37. But once again the Jackrabbits' defense was up to the task and held on downs leaving the score at 7-3 at halftime.
Poly had a slight edge in yards (104-98) at halftime even though Granite Bay had the ball 14:26 to 9:34 for Poly. Granite Bay's run defense was superb, allowing just 25 yards rushing on 13 carries.Follow the game on Qwixcore
Like its first drive, Granite Bay drove right down field on its first possession of the second half keyed by a pair of completions over the middle to Steven Graber
from Caraway. But once again the Grizzlies couldn't finish because Poly's defense was just too fast and tough.
Cooper looked exasperated to send Brown out to kick another field goal, but he drilled a 37-yard to close the gap to 7-6 with 6:29 left in the third.
Long Beach Poly and Granite Bay each began with matching 1-3 records,eached finished with a flurry, riding 11-game win streaks heading into Friday night. Both won five straight playoff games.
The Grizzlies from Granite Bay, located east of Sacramento on the shores of Folsom Lake in southwest Placer County, punched their ticket with a commanding 45-17 triumph over St. Ignatius (San Francisco) in the Regional Bowl Game. It featured the familiar trademarks of coach Cooper's offense: great line play, lots of tricky running and a victory.
The Jackrabbits had a rougher start to the season than Granite Bay, with a three-game losing streak that included decisive losses to Narbonne (56-0) and Bakersfield (29-6).
But a bruising running game and defense carried the Jackrabbits to its second Bowl Championship game, the first time they lost 25-20 to another Sac-Joaquin Section team, Grant of Sacramento in 2008. Final statisticsGranite Bay 21, Long Beach Poly 20
Granite Bay 0 3 11 7 — 21
Long Beach Poly 7 0 7 6 — 20First quarter
LBP — Wicks 39 pass from Jackson (Daniels kick), 1:15Second quarter
GB — FG, Brown 41, 3:44Third quarter
GB — FG, Brown 37, 6:29
GB — Keeney 29 interception return (Partridge run), 4:36
LBP — Smith 28 pass from Jackson (Daniels kick), 0:11Fourth quarter
LBP — Lugga 10 run (kick failed), 3:47
GB — Cooley 3 run (Brown kick), 1:12RUSHING
GB — Ellison 12-64, Cooley 12-48, Partridge 8 33, Geraghty 2-0, team 1-(-1), Caraway 3-(-8). Totals 38-136. LBP — Luuga 14-104, Wicks 12-19, Jackson 1-6, team 1-(-1), Calhoune 1-(-1). Totals 29-127. PASSING
GB — Caraway 11-23-0-118. LBP — Jackson 6-10-2-141, Luuga 1-2-1-20, Tiedemann 2-5-2-20, Team 0-1-0-0-0, Derrick 0-1-0-0-0. RECEIVING
GB — Partridge 4-48, Graber 3-38, Geraghty 2-15, Serna 1-12, Ellis 1-5. LBP — Smith 2-63, Wicks 2-61, Derrick 2-26, Drummer 1-20, Tucker 1-10, Luuga 1-1. TACKLES
GB — Conen 8, Knapp 6, Milo 6, Smith 6, Hershberger 5. LBP — Brown 14, Marshall 6, Turner 5, Smith 5, Mitai 5. TEAM STATISTICS
First downs: GB 15, LBP 10
Total yards: GB 254, LBP 308
Fumbles/lost: GB 2/2, LBP 1/0
Penalties: GB 3-20, LBP 11-65
Time of possession: GB 27:47, Poly 20:13
Records: Granite Bay 12-3, LBP 11-4.