The Tracy High football team keeps finding new levels of intensity its quest to keep extending its season.
The season will now includes a shot at Sac-Joaquin Section Division I title following the Bulldogs’ 27-21 win in overtime at Granite Bay High in the division semifinals on Friday.
“There’s no quit in them. I’m just so proud of my guys,” Tracy coach Matt Shrout said. “I’m just so glad that my boys could to this and get to this position because they deserve it. This one’s for our town again.”
The visiting side bleachers were filled with Tracy High fans, who cheered the team on through the rain as the Bulldogs affirmed their place in Tracy High history by earning a trip to the section championship game for the first time since 1987, when Tracy won the section title under coach Wayne Schneider.
The No. 7-seeded Bulldogs (10-3, 4-1 Tri-City Athletic League) kept creating ways to stay in Friday’s game, even as the No. 2 Grizzlies (9-4, 4-2 Sierra Foothill League) outpaced Tracy on offense, all the way to a 21-21 tie the end of regulation play and into overtime.
Once in overtime each team would have a chance to run four downs starting at the 10-yard line. Tracy senior fullback Nate Jones got the ball to the 2-yard line, but the Bulldogs were pushed back on a false start penalty. On third down quarterback Michael Brown handed off to junior Courtney Hawkins for a 6-yard touchdown run up the middle.
Hawkins temporarily took on Tracy’s primary running back duties earlier in the season when Jones, the team’s leading rusher, was out with an injury. Hawkins said he had a recurring dream all week about making a game-winning play.
“Coach (Chuck) Selna (Tracy’s offensive coach) put me in the position to make a play,” Hawkins said. “Before the overtime even started we said that every play we’ve got to go 100 percent and execute like we did at practice.”
Tracy senior defensive back Joshua Clarke denied the Grizzlies their chance to even it up. On the Grizzlies’ first play Granite Bay quarterback Justin Yeaton passed to his receiver on the left side of the end zone and Clarke leaped up to grab the ball. His interception ended the game.
Clarke said he kept his focus on the receiver.
“I just saw him go inside at first -- and we watched film over and over again -- so I knew that when he breaks inside he’s going to break back outside, so I jumped for it,” Clarke said. “I just thank God that I knew what the play was.”
Up until overtime Tracy kept finding ways to stay in the game, even as Granite Bay outpaced Tracy on offense. The Grizzlies totaled 352 yards of offense compared with 276 for Tracy.
Granite Bay totaled 170 yards rushing, including Tyler Brendel’s 53-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Yeaton completed 12 of 25 passes for 182 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown pass to Will Stabbert in the second quarter and a 31-yard touchdown pass to Stabbert at the end of the third. Yeaton also threw two interceptions, including Clarke’s overtime pick, and Tracy senior Jacob Alvarado also intercepted a pass at the end of the second quarter.
Tracy covered 215 yards on the ground with 87 yards for Jones, including a 4-yard touchdown run at the end of the first quarter.
Granite Bay held a 14-7 lead at the half, and as teams got into the third quarter the rain started to come down.
Brown ran in a touchdown from the 9 yard line in the third quarter, and Tracy got the ball back on the Grizzlies 49-yard line three plays after the kickoff when senior Brandon Russell picked up a Granite Bay fumble to set up a 49-yard touchdown drive.
The drive included a key run for Jones on fourth-and-seven from the Grizzlies 28, covering 15 yards for a first down. Jones scored on a 5-yard touchdown run two plays later to put Tracy up 21-14.
Granite Bay tied it up at the end of the third as the rain became a steady downpour.
The Grizzlies threatened to score three more times in the fourth, but pass coverage from Tracy’s Alvarado and William Alexander kept the Grizzlies out of the red zone, and Granite Bay kicker Scott Henrichs’ 41-yard field goal attempt fell short.
“Coach just gave us the game plan and we believed in it,” Alexander said. “We just fed off of everybody doubting us. This is for everybody out here who came and supported us all season long, through the rain through the hot sun, through everything.”
Granite Bay made two more unsuccessful drives. One was interrupted when Russell sacked Yeaton for a loss.
With 16 seconds left on the clock the Grizzlies were close enough for a 27-yard field goal attempt, but they were unable to complete the play as Shrout used Tracy’s three timeouts. Twice Henrichs kicked the ball between the uprights, after Shrout called for the timeout. When Henrichs was finally able to make his attempt uninterrupted the ball went wide left to put the game into overtime.