A dominant rushing performance helped Roseville High School knock off Johnson 52-22 in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs Friday night in Placer County.
The Tigers entered as the No. 6 seed after finishing 6-4 in the regular season, going 4-2 in the Capital Valley Conference, putting them in a three-way tie for second place. Johnson entered as the No. 11 seed with an 8-2 record, going 4-0 in the Greater Sacramento League and riding a seven-game winning streak for the program’s first playoff entry in 18 seasons.
The name of the game all season for Roseville was running as the Tigers averaged 80 passing yards per game while Johnson averaged about 26.
Joe Brijs rushed for three touchdowns after leading the Tigers in rushing in the regular season with 686 yards coming in. The junior now has 18 scores.
“That was my first playoff game on varsity,” said Brijs, also a starting linebacker. “It’s really cool to win and show our home crowd what we came to do.”
And Brijs was quick to give credit to the offensive line for making holes.
“I think our offensive linemen know what they need to do and I think they drive down the field,” Brijs said. “Running backs, we just follow the holes and follow the linemen and we just run the ball.”
Cooper Thompson hit Jackson Shedd for two touchdown strikes for Roseville to balance the offense. But the emphasis is the ground game. Tigers coach Joe Cattolico explained why the team appears so run-oriented.
It’s been his staple for as long as he has coached, leading to championship success in San Jose and at Elk Grove Unified School District programs Pleasant Grove and Sheldon. He is in his first year at Roseville.
“We believe that running the football at this level is really important,” Cattolico said. “We try to stay on offense and control the football and control the clock a little bit. That’s something that’s been a mantra for us at different places.”
The game started well for the Tigers, who used a methodical drive capped off by a five-yard touchdown run from Brijs. He added two more short scoring runs, and the defense kept Johnson at bay after leading 31-16 at the half.
Devin Harriman had a 27-yard field goal and made all seven of his team’s extra points for Roseville.
Johnson, 0-10 just three years ago, was led by running backs Damond Tillman and Doreion Akins. The Warriors pulled all the stops. They went for it every time they hit fourth down, declined to punt or attempt a field goal and they only attempted onside kicks after scores.
“It does change how you do things,” Cattolico said of defending that sort of plan. “It really changes how you play defense with the extra down. It makes it tough, but I thought our kids made some big four-down stops that were critical tonight. “
The Tigers now play at No. 3 Buhach Colony of Atwater, a 10-0 team that had an opening bye. But they are not getting ahead of themselves, Cattolico said.
“We think that we got a one-game playoff with Buhach Colony,” he said. “If we’re thinking about anything besides that, we’re probably gonna be in trouble. “We’re definitely going to be focused in on a really good team and try to figure out what we can do to be competitive when we go down there to play.”