Eight is great
Since Oak Ridge High School opened its doors in the early 1980s, its varsity football teams has played in eight CIF Sac-Joaquin Section title games, counting tonight’s Division I title game against Granite Bay at Sacramento State University.
The Trojans have won four of seven section championship games dating back to 1986. Here’s a look back at those years/opponents/scores:
1986 — Division III — Colfax 3, Oak Ridge 0*
1996 — Division II — Oakdale 28, Oak Ridge 21 (overtime)
1998 — Division II — Oak Ridge 34, Rio Linda 0
2000 — Division II — Granite Bay 41, Oak Ridge 21
2002 — Division II — Oak Ridge 20, Granite Bay 17
2003 — Division II — Oak Ridge 34, Cordova 0
2004 — Division II — Oak Ridge 34, Del Oro 27
2012 — Division I — Oak Ridge vs. Granite Bay
*Denotes Oak Ridge hosted section D-III title game.
Since the playoffs started in 1971, most section championship games have been played at neutral sites.
EL DORADO HILLS — Tonight’s CIF Sac-Joaquin Section title football game at Sacramento State University between Oak Ridge and Granite Bay for the section banner is the Trojans’ eighth appearance playing for a championship, first time at the Division I level.
From 2002 to ’04, the Trojans, members of the Sierra Valley Conference, won three consecutive D-II titles: 2004’s 34-27 win over Del Oro; 2003’s 34-0 shutout of Cordova; and 2002’s narrow 20-17 victory over Granite Bay. Troy’s other championship was in ’98, a 34-0 win over Rio Linda.
Tonight is the third time Oak Ridge and Grizzlies face off for a football section title. The two schools have combined to play in 13 title games, counting tonight, with nine wins.
In last year’s D-I quarterfinals at Granite Bay, the Grizzlies upended the Trojans, 21-12. While revenge could be a factor, winning the program’s fifth section blue banner since Oak Ridge opened its doors in the early 1980s could be a bigger motivation for the Trojans.
“We haven’t talked about it that much,” Oak Ridge head coach Eric Cavaliere said. “Each year is a new year.”
The Trojans (12-1) have a balanced offense. They average 180.8 yards per game on the ground and 178.7 yards per game.
Quarterback Jason Samuels has completed 167 of 277 passes for 2,290 yards and 26 touchdowns. Running back Blake Martin is closing in on rushing for 1,000 yards this season, leading the team with 131 carries for 914 yards and 12 touchdowns. Josh Wellman follows in rushing for Oak Ridge at 150 carries for 886 yards and 11 touchdowns. Tanner Hughes is next at 70-379 and three touchdowns.
Wide receiver Bryon Spain leads the Troy receivers, hauling in 50 catches for 816 yards and 11 touchdowns. Tight end Ross Dwelley is 35-469 and five touchdowns and wide receiver Justin Priest has caught 29 passes for 376 yards. Hughes is a double threat in catching the ball this season; 10 receptions for 121 yards and four touchdowns.
“We have a very balanced offense,” Cavaliere said.
Granite Bay (10-3) has been dominating with its Fly offense on the ground. The Grizzlies are averaging a remarkable 249 yards per game. In the air, they average 123 yards per game. Halfback John Cooley has been cool on the ground, rushing 232 times for 1,225 yards and 12 touchdowns. Tony Ellison is next in rushing at 119-903 and 10 scores. Ellison is a double threat for Granite Bay, pulling in 41 receptions for 464 yards and an additional 8 touchdowns.
“They are able to do both (run and pass) very well,” Cavaliere said.
The Grizzlies will face a Trojan defense that’s given up an average of 15 points per game, led by defensive end Zack Claiborne who has 25 sacks and 84 tackles.
“Zack is a phenomenal pass rusher,” Cavaliere said. “He’s got a blend of quickness and strength that is tough for offensive linemen.”
Linebacker Nick Gordon leads the Trojans in tackles at 183, including 133 solo. Thomas Mahlman follows at 139 tackles, including 88 solo, and defensive back Colton Giorgi has 99 tackles this season.
The weather forecast calls for heavy rain tapering off to showers by tonight’s kickoff. Cavaliere said his team will be ready for the weather conditions.
“This is perfect conditions for the Oak Ridge Trojans,” he said. “We have to embrace the weather and take it to our advantage.”
Tonight’s winner will also have a shot of playing for a Northern California regional title.
Note: According to Sac-Joaquin Section assistant commissioner John Williams, CIF officials will meet Sunday to determine which section winners advance and stay home for the Nor Cal and So Cal title games. Williams stated just because Oak Ridge or Granite Bay win doesn’t guaranteed a Nor Cal title appearance.
But their schedules play a serious role for the winner. Eleven of the 13 schools Oak Ridge played this season advanced to the playoffs while 12 of Granite Bay’s 13 opponents made it.
Contact Mike Bush at 530-344-5079 or [email protected] Follow @MBushMtDemo on Twitter.