Lincoln Gets By Granite Bay

Junior running back debuts with a bang on state-of-the-art new astroturf field as Stockton school wins, 28-25, in matchup between two of the top ranked teams in Northern California.

Coach Ernie Cooper started the seventh season of Granite Bay High football a little differently than the first six. The Grizzlies, who've won 83 percent of their games since they opened the school, finally lost an opener, this one 28-25 to host Lincoln of Stockton.

The Trojans started the night by celebrating the first game being played on a spanking new $250,000 astroturf field. That's what you get when one of the most prominent California businessmen, developer Alex Spanos, lives virtually next door and has grandchildren currently attenting the school.

Spanos, also known for owning the San Diego Chargers, was on hand to christen the field. He didn't stay long enough to watch Lincoln junior Billy Smith create a few new burn marks on the new surface. Smith led the Trojans with 21 carries for 187 yards and three touchdowns.

Smith, who is a cousin of University of Washington freshman Louis Rankin, the star of last year's team, knows he has a tradition to uphold.

"The previous running backs have been Tyronne Gross, Ramon Glascow and Louis," said Smith, who was a standout on the JV level last year. "I know I've got some shoes to fill and I was feeling some pressure. I think I did okay."

The game featured two teams who both lost in CIF Sac-Joaquin Section championship games last year, Lincoln to Jesuit of Carmichael in Division I and Granite Bay to Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills in Division II.

The Trojans, who lost a 31-30 shootout to Granite Bay a year ago on the road, led 14-0 at halftime on touchdown runs of 19 and 20 yards by Smith. On their first series of the third quarter, they made it 21-0 on a five-yard scoring pass from Brian Korinek to Alex Trujillo.

In the first half, Granite Bay seemed unable to find weapons other than super-speedster Sammie Stroughter. In the second half, players like Rico Russo, Stewart Andrews and Will Partridge began squirting through openings created mostly by tight end Justin Hupp and the Grizzlies mounted a comeback.

After scoring on the final play of the third quarter on a one-yard plunge by Stroughter, Granite Bay cut the lead to 21-13 a few minutes later on another one-yard run by Stroughter.

All the momentum at that point was on the Granite Bay side, but Smith then came through with his most impressive run. Cutting inside and then outside, Smith broke three tackles and scored on a 67-yard run that brought the lead back to 28-13.

"That one broke our back," Cooper said. "You've got to give that kid a lot of credit. Our defense was a little tired at that point and he took advantage."

Granite Bay wasn't done yet, though. The Grizzlies took only three plays to go 58 yards after Smith's score and stayed in the game on seven-yard run by Anthony Lee. The problem was that after the second score, the Grizzlies missed the PAT. Then after the third score, Cooper had to go for two and the attempt failed as a pass was broken up in the end zone.

The last touchdown of the game for Granite Bay took place with no time on the clock. The ensuing two-point conversion also was unsuccessful, thus the 28-25 final.

"They outmanned us up front, but we didn't give up and I think this makes us a better team," Cooper said. "I always want to play heavyweights like Lincoln because I know we'll learn."

Said Lincoln coach Mike Byerly, starting his second season: "If we can score 28 points on a team like this, that's good for our offense. It's a big relief (to win). Both sides played hard and both sides got tired. I wish that wouldn't happen, but it's the first game and I predicted that would happen."

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