The star by any measure is Elijah Dotson, a running back to behold with his ability to turn games with his effort and touchdowns.
The unsung player for the Antelope Titans is Garrett Chapman.
He’s a durable, versatile senior who plays fullback, catches bail-out passes for first downs and raises his hand in the final, frantic moments to help seal matters.
On Friday night, Chapman scored on a 36-yard touchdown pass from Nick Spagnola and later two-point conversion on a reverse with 1:41 to go to lift host Antelope past storied Grant 29-28 in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoff thriller.
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Dotson rushed for 303 yards, some of them hard-charging chunks and some of the burst variety, including an 84-yard sprint for a 14-7 lead. The senior’s 42-yard touchdown romp set up Chapman on a gutsy call to go for the win by coach Matt Ray.
The Titans then held the Pacers on downs, delighting an overflow crowd.
Antelope players and coaches stormed the field, celebrating the signature victory the program had sought since the school opened in 2008. Antelope was 11-0 last season when it fell to powerhouse Rocklin in the second round.
Now 12-0, the Titans are in a semifinal for the first time.
“What we’ve accomplished so far, some of our big regular-season wins, our newness, our youngness, we’re trying to appreciate all of it,” Ray said earlier in the week. “You try to appreciate the moment because you never know when the season will end. Our guys understand the magnitude of this game, what it means.
“We know we can compete with the great programs. We’ve played Vacaville and St. Mary’s and Rocklin in the playoffs, been in the wringer.”
Another powerhouse program looms: defending champion Del Oro next week in Loomis.
Dotson was emotional after the game, as was his father, Robert Dotson. The elder Dotson was the first Grant player to rush for 2,000 yards in a season, doing so for the Pacers’ first section title team in 1992.
He now is an Elijah Dotson and Titans fan to the core.
“I know this means a lot to my dad,” young Dotson said earlier Friday. “I’m impressed with our attitude and focus coming in.”
Elijah Dotson has 2,174 yards and 24 touchdowns. Now he wants to match his dad with a section title.
“That’s what we all want,” Elijah Dotson said. “We’ve got some work to do.”
Tyree Marcelle rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown for Grant, in the playoffs for an ongoing section record 26th successive time.