It was a horrific scene Friday night at Whitney High School.
Quarterback Jake Rodrigues went down because of a broken left fibula early in the fourth quarter of the Wildcats' somber 35-0 win over Cosumnes Oaks in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs.
The injury was so ugly that Rodrigues' teammates dropped to their knees in stunned silence.
"It was shocking for everyone," said Whitney coach Mike Gimenez. "It just let the air out of the stadium."
It also crushed Gimenez, an ex-college quarterback, who has grown close to his personable, hard-working senior leader.
"Jake is like a son to me," Gimenez said. "It tore me up to see him in such pain."
At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Rodrigues was a formidable running and passing threat the past three seasons. The two-time Capital Athletic League Offensive Player of the Year was hurt on a running play.
"He got flipped and his foot planted as his body spun while a little off balance," Gimenez said. "It was a freaky deal."
Making the injury even more bitter: Rodrigues was scheduled to take his official recruiting visit to Eugene on Saturday to see the Ducks play USC. He is an Oregon verbal commit.
Gimenez said Rodrigues had his leg placed in a cast and will have surgery to insert a plate into his leg.
Even with Rodrigues, who took almost all the snaps this season in passing for 2,042 yards and 26 touchdowns and rushing for 686 yards and 15 scores, sixth-seeded Whitney (10-2) would be big underdogs Friday against No. 2 Del Oro (11-1), the defending D-III champion.
Running back Connor Graves took over at quarterback after Rodrigues went down. Gimenez could also go to his "quarterback of the future," 6-2, 195-pound sophomore Kyle McCray, the junior varsity starter this season.
"Del Oro's got a great program, and I'm sure no one expects us to win," Gimenez said. "But we've got 21 other starters and a lot of good players. So we just have to rally the troops."
Grizzlies' backup plan Granite Bay's Josh Neal, a backup JV quarterback this season, found himself taking snaps in the biggest game of the year for the Grizzlies' varsity Friday in a Division I quarterfinal game against Oak Ridge.
Three-year starter Brendan Keeney took a direct hit to his hip during the Grizzlies' first offensive series and didn't return.
In a brief stint, junior backup Grant Caraway, struggling with a right shoulder injury, had difficulty handling snaps.
Normally, JV starter Vinny Esposito, a sophomore, would have been next in line. But he missed two days of practice earlier in the week because of illness.
So Cooper tabbed the 5-7, 135-pound Neal.
"His eyes got a little big," Cooper said of Neal when he was told he was up next.
Neal completed 4 of 5 passes for 46 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown to fullback Taft Partridge, as Granite Bay won 21-12. The No. 5 Grizzlies (10-2) travel to top-seeded Lincoln of Stockton (11-1) on Friday.
Credit Cooper for good planning. Since Caraway also is a starting safety, Cooper has had Neal and Esposito work with the varsity from the start of the season to take some of the practice workload off Keeney.
"We'd have one come over from JV practice and work with us for 15 to 20 minutes, then the other would come over," Cooper. "That's worked out nicely."
What also worked out nicely Friday was halfback Arik Bird's workmanlike performance. The senior rushed for 179 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries.
"Arik was the story," Cooper said. "He kept squeezing six and seven yards out of what should have been two- and three-yard gains."
Keeney insists he'll be ready to play against Lincoln.
"We'll see how he's moving around on Monday," Cooper said. "But Brendan's a tough kid."