Leave it to Marco Baldacchino to rescue Oak Ridge’s Sierra Foothill League championship hopes.
Bottled up for much of Friday’s game against Granite Bay, Baldacchino hit Parker Barry for an 11-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 7, then ran 10 yards on the first play of overtime to lead the No. 2 Trojans to a 14-7 victory over the No. 5 Grizzlies in Granite Bay.
The Trojans’ defense made a goal-line stand on fourth-and-inches to deny the Grizzlies a chance to reset the overtime possessions. Evan Tattersall, usually good for at least three yards and a cloud of crushed tire dust, was stopped for no gain and the Trojans began to celebrate at midfield. California Interscholastic Federation overtime rules award alternating possessions instead of sudden death. If one team scores, the other gets a chance to match the score.
Oak Ridge (7-0, 4-0) keeps pace with No. 1 Folsom, which thrashed Nevada Union 42-0 on Friday. The meeting in three weeks between the Trojans and Bulldogs at Oak Ridge continues to loom large, although Oak Ridge hosts No. 10 Del Oro next week. Del Oro lost at home to No. 9 Rocklin 22-12 on Friday.
The rough-and-tumble SFL gets crazier by the week.
“That’s kind of the way it is in the SFL,” Oak Ridge coach Eric Cavaliere said. “I was talking to Norm Ryan, the former Casa Robles head coach now here at Granite Bay, and he said it used to be that you’d have one or two big games a season, and now it’s every week in the SFL.”
Zach Grable spied Baldacchino throughout the game, never allowing the speedy and shifty Trojans quarterback to get into a rhythm until late in the game. Helping to contain Oak Ridge’s vaunted offense was Jack Powers, Jacob Ellis and Matt Fowler.
Oak Ridge missed three filed goal attempts, two by Justin Poerio, who is usually a steady kicker when not banged up. His point after in overtime wasn’t his usual booming strike but still went through.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Trojans the rest of the way, but they do get the remaining two SFL heavies, Del Oro and Folsom, at their El Dorado Hills campus.
Tattersall is one of those players who always seems to be in the right place at the right time, whether on defense or offense. With his team driving in the fourth quarter and trying to salt away the game, the ball popped loose from a Grizzlies runner but Tattersall was there to grab it and maintain possession.
“I’m actually surprised he’s even playing,” Cavaliere said. “A couple of weeks ago, against Folsom, they had him strapped down on a board.”
The Grizzlies defense stymied the Trojans for much of the game. Oak Ridge even tried a hook-and-lateral play in the first half. Facing a fourth-and-19 deep in Granite Bay territory, the Trojans elected to pull out the rare play that has one receiver catch a pass and then immediately lateral to another nearby receiver sprinting upfield.
“We always have a few new wrinkles,” Cavaliere said. “You work on them in practice all week and then pull them out if you need them.”
The Trojans tried the same play late in the third quarter but that play ended in a fumble at midfield, the team’s third turnover. One of those was an interception in the end zone by Grable. But Granite Bay couldn’t convert either turnover into points.
It was senior night for 32 Grizzlies with the traditional walk onto the field with their parents arm-in-arm. Granite Bay has almost as many seniors on its squad as Oak Ridge has on its entire varsity roster (38).
All 38 of those Trojans players were whooping and hollering at midfield, their SFL title hopes still very much alive.
Mark Billingsley is a Carmichael-based freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @editorwriter001.