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  • José Luis Villegas Elijah English (44) and Colton Giorgi (6) of Oak Ridge stand over Granite Bay's John Cooley, who had scored on a five-yard run in the first quarter.

  • José Luis Villegas Granite Bay's Tony Ellison dives into the end zone past Oak Ridge's Jacob Sipes for a seven-yard score in the third quarter of the Grizzlies' 35-23 victory.

  • José Luis Villegas Thomas Mahlman of the Trojans holds onto the sleeve of Grizzlies quarterback Grant Caraway after Caraway's five-yard scramble in the second quarter.

Granite Bay retains Division I football title behind Partridge

Published: Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012 - 11:00 am

The Partridge family has been a productive one of endless proportions for the Granite Bay Grizzlies over the years.

Four brothers, a lot of leadership, a host of victories and scores of memories.

The last of the lot is Taft Partridge, a hard-charging senior fullback whose two second-half touchdown runs – yes, the burly back can motor – keyed Granite Bay's 35-23 triumph over Oak Ridge on Friday night at Sacramento State.

The Grizzlies retained their Division I championship in relative dry conditions after a day of battering wind and rain at Sac State with tremendous offensive-line play that served to unleash three runners. And the defense did just enough to hold off a determined Trojans bunch that kept in it in the second half behind savvy quarterback Jason Samuels (314 yards, two touchdowns).

Partridge isn't the fastest of the Granite Bay backfield crew by any means, but he was in downhill mode on his last few carries, tearing off untouched scoring runs of 47 yards and 86 yards for a program that has five section crowns since 1999 under coach Ernie Cooper, who brought the fly-sweep offense from Aptos High in Santa Cruz County and ignited a dynasty of sorts.

Also a fine blocker, Partridge ran for 235 yards on just 11 carries for a hefty 21.4-yard average. John Cooley went for 126 yards on 21 tries, opening the scoring with a five-yard touchdown run, and Tony Ellison had 194 on 15, including a seven-yard score for a 21-9 lead.

All told, the Grizzlies (11-3) battered a sound Trojans (12-2) defense for 549 rushing yards and 606 total as Grant Caraway contributed a nine-yard touchdown pass to Steven Graber for a 14-3 first-quarter lead.

"Feels great," Partridge said. "Back to back championships. So happy."

The other Partridge brothers are Will, a fullback in 2004; Judd, a defensive end in 2006; and Clark, a fullback in 2007 and 2008. Taft is a three-year starter with a bit of family bragging rights to the tune of two titles and a chance to play in a NorCal Regional game next week, either the Open or the D-I contest.

Granite Bay eliminated an Oak Ridge team that had lost only to D-II top-seed Folsom. The Grizzlies have won 10 consecutive games, not at all resembling an outfit as green as their school colors that staggered to a 1-3 start in facing brutal early competition.

"Early on, when we got off to that start, I wondered if we still had it here at Granite Bay," Cooper said this week. "We're sitting at 1-3 and we're thinking, what's going on here? We decided to go back to basics. We used to block well. We used to tackle well, and we went back to what worked before. So what if teams know what plays we're going to run? We've done it for 16, 17 years. It's dinosaur football, so who's fooling who, but dinosaur works."

Said Oak Ridge coach Eric Cavaliere of the Grizzlies: "What a great program. They have the best defense of any team we've seen all year."

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