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  • JOSÉ LUIS VILLEGAS / jvillegas@sacbee.com

    Granite Bay offensive tackle Kevin Blank displays the NorCal Championship trophy after the Grizzlies routed St. Ignatius of San Francisco at Hornet Stadium.

  • JOSÉ LUIS VILLEGAS / jvillegas@sacbee.com

    Granite Bay's John Cooley (5) celebrates one of his four scores Friday with Michael Geraghty.

Granite Bay gears up for state bowl against Long Beach Poly

Published: Monday, Dec. 10, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013 - 8:06 pm

Ernie Cooper was back to the all-day grind over the weekend of examining game film and breaking down data.

And what did the Granite Bay High School football coach assure his wife, Carol?

"She thinks I'm playing pool and drinking beer with the guys," Cooper said with a laugh. I tell her, 'Honey, it's all film.' "

And that means it's all Long Beach Poly in an image of size, power and speed. The Jackrabbits are the Grizzlies' opponent for Friday's CIF State Division I Bowl game in Carson.

It will be a matchup of 12-3 teams that have come on strong after starting the season 1-3 against stiff competition. The programs are a combined 10-0 in the postseason in each sporting 11-game winning streaks.

Granite Bay was especially dominant in trouncing St. Ignatius-San Francisco 45-17 for the Northern California Regional Division I crown Friday at Sacramento State, with line play, John Cooley's running and defense leading the charge.

"We prepared all year to play our best game, and I thought we were pretty darn close to our best game," Cooper said.

Cooper and his players said the team's ability to bounce back from the 1-3 start brought everyone closer.

"It was scary at first (to start 1-3), but we are destined to win state," said Cooley, who rushed for four touchdowns Friday.

"All week, Cooper said we are a special team, and he said we are the best team to ever come through Granite Bay. It shows now."

Granite Bay is in a State Bowl for the first time, packing a résumé that, since 1999, includes five Sac-Joaquin Section championships, including the past two in D-I. Granite Bay opened in 1996 and houses 2,100 students.

Poly is one of the storied programs in the land. The school was founded nearly 100 years before Granite Bay, in 1895, and it has been sending athletes to college and the NFL since the 1920s. The school's enrollment is 5,090, one of the largest in the country. Sports Illustrated named Poly "Sports School of the Century."

This season, the Jackrabbits bounced back from an early 56-0 shelling to Narbonne and setbacks to Serra-Gardena (20-12) and Bakersfield (29-6). They beat Mater Dei-Santa Ana 35-17 on Dec. 1 to claim the program's 19th Southern Section title and defeated Clovis North 28-7 Saturday for the SoCal D-I championship.

This is Poly's second trip to a State Bowl. In 2008, Poly was ranked No. 2 nationally but fell to Grant 25-20 in the first State Open game.

That Grant triumph shed new light on Sacramento football and the Sac-Joaquin Section in general, one largely overlooked and scoffed at by Southern California programs.

Granite Bay is the third Sierra Foothill League program to reach a State Bowl, and it aims to do what its Placer County brethren could not accomplish: win.

In 2009, Rocklin fell to nationally ranked No. 4 Servite-Anaheim 33-30 on a late field goal in the D-II Bowl to finish 14-1. Last season, Del Oro lost to Helix-La Mesa 35-24 in the D-II Bowl to finish 13-2.

Cooper said that beating programs such as Rocklin in overtime this season and Del Oro for the first time in four seasons allowed the Grizzlies to get here.

"It is another week," Cooper said. "We've got another game. With this group, I want to keep playing."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Joe Davidson



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