Joe Davidson

Granite Bay rally stuns Grant, scores one for unbeaten SFL in football playoffs

Granite Bay’s Alex Martinez (44) is tackled by two Grant defenders during their Sac-Joaquin Section Division II football playoff game Sacramento on Saturday.
Granite Bay’s Alex Martinez (44) is tackled by two Grant defenders during their Sac-Joaquin Section Division II football playoff game Sacramento on Saturday. aseng@sacbee.com

So, how about that Sierra Foothill League?

And how about the grit and drive of the Granite Bay Grizzlies?

Trailing 21-3 entering the fourth quarter against a formidable, fierce and fast top seed fueled by tragedy, Granite Bay got defensive, and then offensive, and then stunned Grant High School 24-21 with late-game heroics in Del Paso Heights on Saturday night to win an emotionally charged Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoff game.

Grant was playing in honor of beloved lost teammate Jaulon “JJ” Clavo, who died from a gunshot wound to the neck just over a week ago, and scores of area teams have shown remarkable sportsmanship with support.

This included Granite Bay, with coaches wearing blue and gold ribbons – Pacers colors – on their shirts Saturday, and sharing the profound grief that has rocked the Grant program.

The Grizzlies also had a lot to play for, and coach Jeff Evans urged his players to understand they would not be bad guys for beating a Grant team seemingly favored by all of the region.

Granite Bay, after all, wasn’t sure it would even get into the playoffs after losing in the final seconds to rival Del Oro in Week 10. But the Grizzlies (7-5) got in – their 17th consecutive playoff berth – as a No. 9 seed.

The SFL showed its depth and staying power with five SFL teams sporting a combined 10-0 record with Folsom and Oak Ridge in D-I and Del Oro, Granite Bay and Rocklin in D-II.

So guess who Granite Bay draws next? Del Oro, in a section semifinal few saw coming after Del Oro entered the playoffs at 4-6.

Brad Fina engineered Granite Bay’s comeback, and a few weeks ago, no one saw this coming either. Fina missed most of the season with a shoulder injury but has dazzled in his return. He hit Scotty Henrichs for a 55-yard touchdown bomb in stride to pull the Grizzlies to within 21-16 with 7:44 to go, and then he hit Isaiah Lewis for a 40-yard scoring strike in stride with 2:41 left.

Lewis then sealed it with an interception on his own 30 with 1:57 to play, and Granite Bay ran out the clock.

The last time these powerhouse programs met was in 2008, when Grant slipped past the Grizzlies in an opening-round game and went on to win the region’s first CIF State Bowl title.

Lawrence Hardy dazzled for Grant (10-2), scoring on bombs of 51 and 67 yards from Mike Cook and a 70-yard punt return. Hardy was in the car with Clavo and three other Pacers teammates when bullets changed all of their lives. Grant players dropped to their knees after Granite Bay ran out the clock, stunned it was over.

They collected themselves to shake hands with Granite Bay, and then circled around their longtime coach Mike Alberghini, who urged them to hold onto each other.

Tougher days lay ahead for this Grant group. There is still no arrest in the shooting, no answers as to why it happened. Clavo’s funeral is next Saturday.

Joe Davidson: 916-321-1280, @SacBee_JoeD

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