It’s a tradition at Granite Bay High School for the underclassmen to form two lines after the last game of the season for the seniors to walk down and get congratulatory hugs as they complete their prep playing days.
The Grizzlies hoped that tradition would happen on the field at Sacramento State after the California Interscholastic Federation State Championships next week. But, instead, the hugs happened and the tears flowed on their home field after the Pittsburg Pirates blasted the Grizzlies 37-14 in the Northern California Regional Division I-A title game.
The Pirates play Narbonne of Harbor City next Saturday for the CIF state Div. I-A championship. The Grizzlies finished 12-3, considerably better than an uncharacteristic down year last season that saw them end 4-7.
“We’re fighters,” senior lineman Will Craig said as he fought through tears. “We had a mentality that we were going to change things around. It wasn’t Granite Bay football any more (after last season) so we set out to get back into the weight room, bring back some of our traditions and I think we accomplished that. So I’m super proud even though we lost.”
The Pirates junior quarterback Justin Boyd finished 14 for 19 for 262 yards and three touchdowns, one of them a 73-yarder to his older cousin, A’jae Boyd, that quashed any Grizzlies hopes of a second-half comeback after they trailed 17-0 by the break.
Granite Bay’s first score was on a blocked punt by Matt Fowler that was recovered by Tannen Vagle in the Pirates’ endzone. Grizzlies quarterback Jake Foddrill found 6-foot-7 tight end Ryan Smith for a 29-yard score a short time later. But the Boyds connected on the long scoring pass play on their first play from scrimmage after getting the ball back, and the Grizzlies never really got anything going after that.
“They’re a great team and they came out ready to play,” Craig said. “It’s tough when they’re big and physical with good (skill players). But we didn’t give up and that’s all you can ask for.”
The fact that ball-control running back and linebacker Evan Tattersall went down with a right shoulder injury midway through the second quarter did not help. He did not return.
The Grizzlies were held to just 144 yards of total offense, including 48 yards in the first half. Granite Bay’s initial first down didn’t come until midway through the second quarter. Foddrill struggled in the first half, completing just four passes for 10 yards with an interception. He finished 11 for 24 with 100 yards and the touchdown to Smith.
“We weren’t getting much of a running game going and we became one dimensional and they capitalized,” Foddrill said. “In the second half, we made some adjustments and started playing catch to get into a rhythm. We felt we could get back into the game, and did, but then some unfortunate events happened, and the rest was history.”
After the last hug from the Grizzlies underclassmen and his fellow seniors, Foddrill wandered around midfield snapping photos with teammates, fans and parents.
The loss hurts, he said. They always do, especially the ones in December. But this senior class of Grizzlies impressed, and the three losses came to Oak Ridge and Folsom (which will play Friday for a state title) and now to Pittsburg, which has only lost to national power Centennial and De La Salle. Nothing to be embarrassed about there.
“I’m satisfied with our season, especially compared with last year,” Foddrill said. “We’ve restored Granite Bay football and whether that’s true or not it does feel good to recover from a 4-7 year and get to the NorCal finals.”
Mark Billingsley is a Carmichael-based freelance writer. Reach him at email@example.com or @editorwriter001.