LE GRAND — Before they were joined by family and friends in the aftermath of Friday’s semifinals, Golden Sierra High players said their goodbyes to each other, the coaches and the season after the Grizzlies were bounced 56-7 by host Le Grand.
Robert Perez and Zachary Moreno each scored three touchdowns as the top-seeded Bulldogs eliminated the Grizzlies from the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V bracket. Le Grand quarterback Alex Bucio tossed four touchdown passes, three to Moreno, as Golden Sierra simply couldn’t stop the Dawgs’ high-powered offense. Le Grand led 35-0 at halftime.
“They’re bigger, faster and a great football team. I give them credit and wish them well,” Grizzly coach Terry Cox said. “As for us, we came as far as we could. We had expectations but couldn’t match-up on either side of the ball tonight.”
While Golden Sierra was disappointed its season was over, there wasn’t regret after rallying from an 0-3 start, making the playoffs and posting a solid opening-round win last week at Mariposa.
“We took that first step (winning postseason opener) but the second wasn’t in the cards. It was a long year – we came back from adversity and I’m very proud of the team. Next year we can make that second step,” Cox said.
Le Grand’s next step is a date next Saturday with Highlands for the section title, an opponent the Griz are quite familiar with.
“That will be a good game. Le Grand is quick but Highlands is fast. Highlands has two DBs (defensive backs) that can run with No. 2 (Moreno) where we didn’t,” Cox said.
Bucio and Moreno burned Golden Sierra from the get-go, hooking up for 53 yards on the Dawgs’ first play to set up Perez’ first touchdown. Moreno then caught a short fade in the end zone for a 14-0 advantage and shortly before halftime ran a post route for a 42-yard touchdown. Early in the third quarter, Moreno took Bucio’s quick out and beat Golden Sierra around the end for a 29-yard catch-and-run for six points.
Offensively, the Grizzlies couldn’t get going. Golden Sierra ran Jim Hansen, Matt McKain, Sean Alexander and Jordan Winje in every direction but Le Grand reacted like it knew the playbook. After rushing for over 300 yards a week ago, the Garden Valley squad was held to 90 Friday. Their longest run from scrimmage was a 15-yarder by McKain who capped Golden Sierra’s 15-play drive with a 4-yard touchdown run with 3:29 left. The Griz’ best pass play was Mike Aplanalp’s 17-yard connection with Nick Highberger in the first half for one of just two first downs the Grizzlies managed in the opening two quarters — the other a gutsy 13-yard fourth down pass from Highberger to Jeremy Estrada.
As the stadium speakers blared “Night Fever” from the 1970’s disco-themed movie Saturday Night Fever, Perez gave Golden Sierra a royal migraine with his running. Reading his blocks, Perez snaked through the Grizzly secondary like knife through butter and also scored on runs from 20 and 6 yards out. Perez had a 65-yard dash to daylight nullified by a penalty and a play later, his 49-yard scamper was cut short as another flag was thrown.
Le Grand’s two other touchdowns came when Bucio found his tight end Alex Martinez streaking wide-open up the middle for 50 yards 51 seconds before the break and a 28-yard interception return by Robert Zaragoza midway into the third quarter.
Golden Sierra finished with an overall record of 6-6.