Payback was sweet for Oak Ridge, which has been eliminated by the Grizzlies the last two seasons. Last December, Granite Bay beat Oak Ridge, 35-23, in the section’s D-I title game at Sacramento State. In 2011, the Grizzlies edged the Trojans, 21-12, in a D-I quarterfinal game at Granite Bay.
The Grizzlies led 17-14 in the third quarter when Trojan defensive back Drew Lackowski picked off Granite Bay quarterback Josh Neal and returned it to Oak Ridge’s 49 yard line.
“He’s just a scrappy, tough kid,” said Oak Ridge head coach Eric Cavaliere of Lackowski. “He’s made so much progress this year. He’s someone I have all the faith in the world in him.”
Two plays later, Trojan signal caller Ian Book (13-of-24, 136 yards) threw one of his two touchdown passes in the half when he found wide receiver Justin Priest in the end zone, beating out Grizzly defensive back Jack Dockham for a 41-yard scoring reception with 5:29 left and 20-14 lead. Kyle Brown booted the extra-point to make it 21-17.
“I ran a deep route in,” Priest said. “I went up and over the top of (Dockham) and turned onto the ball. I was just as ecstatic as anybody else. This is sweet (beating Granite Bay) — it doesn’t get any better than that.”
“I was playing tight coverage, I turned around and the ball was right there,” said Bunce on his first interception.
Bunce added the finishing touches on Oak Ridge’s final touchdown in the fourth quarter. Thanks to a bad Granite Bay punt that set up the Trojans’ offense at the 35-yard line, the 10-play drive concluded when Bunce hauled in a 6-yard pass from Book, who was flushed out of the pocket and scrambled before he found Bunce alone in the end zone to make it 28-17 with 5:51 left in the game.
On his second interception, Bunce was near the Grizzlies’ sidelines when he intercepted Neal’s pass. Bunce ran East-West and reached the Grizzlies’ territory at the 36.
“I was just lucky,” said Bunce on his second pick. “He (Neal) started to make his reads a lot more obvious; he stopped looking off defenders and was looking where he was going to throw.”
“He’s a competitor,” said Cavaliere of Bunce. “He had a couple of deep balls go over his head (in the first half) and didn’t quite play it as well as he could. We needed him to settle in and play his game, and just continued to get better. He made a couple of big plays for us.”
Neal completed 11-of-12 passes for 193 yards in the first half. But the Trojans’ defense allowed him to complete 3-of-5 for 26 yards in the second half.
“It took us awhile to adjust to Granite Bay’s tempo figured out,” Cavaliere said. “Once we did, we locked it in, played great defense. A second half shutout against a great team like that, that’s pretty legit.”
Granite Bay had the ball twice after Oak Ridge’s final score, but the Trojans’ defense forced a punt and turnover to secure the win.
The Grizzlies scored on their second possession in the first quarter when Neal hit Marc Ellis on a 5-yard pass with 7:57 left. Then Oak Ridge tied the game at 7-all when running back Tanner Hughes scored on a 2-yard run with 2:58 left.
Granite Bay took a 14-7 lead toward the end of the quarter when Neal hit Ellis again, this time on a 41-yard strike. The Trojans tied the game again at 14-all when running back Josh Wellman (19 carries, 110 yards) scored on a 44-yard run with 10:03 left in the second quarter. The Grizzlies’ Dominic Scotti booted a 36-yard field goal with 5:47 left to take a 17-14 lead.
The Trojans had 273 total offensive yards, 137 on the ground.
Oak Ridge advances to the D-I semifinals for a second consecutive year, and will host Pleasant Grove, which lost to the Trojans 28-14 on Nov. 1 in a Delta River League game. The Eagles grounded Stagg, 42-28, in their quarterfinal game.
Contact Mike Bush at 530-344-5079 or [email protected] Follow @MBushMtDemo on Twitter.