Ryan McIntosh is the epitome of Granite Bay High School football, his head coach Jeff Evans said Friday night.
The senior middle linebacker isn’t an imposing figure at just 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, but he looked huge to Jesuit quarterback Bailey Abercrombie as he ran an interception back for a score and boomed three key punts to lead the No. 12 Grizzlies to a 21-7 season-opening win at home Friday night over the No. 6 Marauders.
“He’s just an amazing young man,” said Evans, who won his first game as head coach of Granite Bay after taking over for Ernie Cooper. “(Ryan) is smart, as most 4.0 students are, he’s unselfish and he’s a school leader. He’s all heart."
Abercrombie faced a lot of pressure from the Grizzlies’ defense, which also swarmed Marauders running back Beau Bisharat. The Stanford-bound running back was held to 77 yards and wasn’t much of a factor until a late 37-yard run set up his own 4-yard score to break the Jesuit goose egg.
“We knew he was an excellent runner, but we also knew we had to keep our packages really simple,” said Grizzlies defensive coordinator Steve Smith. “I thought we did a great job tonight.”
McIntosh was in on a lot of those tackles on Bisharat and got a gift from Abercrombie in the first quarter, taking his errant throw 4 yards for a score. Granite Bay dominated the first half but committed seven first-half penalties, including three personal fouls to stall drives.
McIntosh also had two punts within Jesuit’s 5-yard line and boomed a 62-yarder late in the fourth quarter to pin the Marauders deep.
Grizzlies junior running back Isaiah Lewis was a blur on offense and scored on a nifty 34-yard pass from Brad Fina. Senior strong safety Sam Cusano, another one of those 4.0 Granite Bay brainiacs, took another Abercrombie pass back for a score, this time from 40 yards away.
Evans was all smiles after the game, having gotten his first victory as only the third head coach in school history. He thought he’d be more nervous than he was, he said, but credited the hard work of his players and coaching staff for settling him down and helping him get the first win.
“The players have all worked incredibly hard, what a bunch of blue-collar guys,” Evans said. “Plus, I have five former head coaches on my staff, so that helps.”
One of those coaches is his father, Lee Evans. The father and son have coached together for 22 years, first at Jeff Evans’ alma mater, Oak Grove in San Jose, and for most of the past 10 seasons at Granite Bay.
Lee was Jeff’s head coach at Oak Grove High, where was Jeff was a “possession” receiver. When asked if that was code for “slow,” Lee laughed and said, “Hey, he sure could catch the ball.”
Mark Billingsley is a Carmichael-based freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @editorwriter001.