Le Grand High football dominates Golden Sierra to claim Sac-Joaquin Section Division 5 championship

slynch@mercedsunstarNovember 30, 2013 

— The Golden Sierra High offense move the ball against Le Grand as well as any football team has this season.

The Grizzlies wracked up 315 total yards and dominated time of possession after Saturday night’s opening quarter of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 5 title game.

But moving the ball against the Bulldogs and scoring on them are two very different things. Le Grand entered the game having only yielded 78 total points in 11 contests. The Grizzlies got a first-hand taste of why.

Golden Sierra drove inside the Le Grand 30-yard line five times and had to settle for just two field goals. The Bulldogs were a little more opportunistic with their chances and took home their fourth straight blue banner with a 20-13 victory over the Grizzlies at the Grape Bowl.

Le Grand (12-0) will now wait and see the results of Dec. 7’s Division 4 title game between Hilmar and Central Catholic to know if they’ll get their shot at a coveted NorCal playoff game and the possible chance at a return trip to Carson for the state bowl games.

“It’s been a ‘bend but don’t break’ defense all season,” Bulldogs head coach Rick Martinez said. “Coach (Alex Thomas) does a good job getting them in the right spots, and we’re battle tested.

“This is a veteran group that doesn’t panic when we get in those situations. They made the plays when we needed them tonight.”

The Bulldogs proved that with Golden Sierra’s first sustained drive of the opening half.

Ryan Martinez put Le Grand up 7-0 with a 1-yard touchdown run with 1 minute to play in the first quarter, but the Grizzlies (7-6) answered right back. Golden Sierra marched 69 yards, earning a first-and-goal at the Le Grand 1-yard line.

The Grizzlies started going backward form there, losing four yards on the next three plays and settling for a Brian Cann 22-yard field goal that trimmed the lead to 7-3 at intermission.

The action picked up in the second half as the LG defense forced a fumble on Golden Sierra's opening possession. Steven Garcia recovered the ball at the GS 33-yard line, and fullback Cristian Nava rumbled in from 14 yards out three plays later to make it 14-3 Bulldogs.

“That was a big play,” Garcia said. “It really set the tone for the second half and helped get our offense going.

“We’re a defense that’s made big plays when we need to. That was a time we needed one.”

Nava’s performance was another reason the Bulldog offense got going in the second half. With Golden Sierra bracketing wide receiver Christian Williams (two catches, 54 yards) and keying on Martinez (21 carries, 118 yards), Le Grand opened things up with its junior bruiser.

Nava had five carries for 56 yards – all in the second half – and helped set up Martinez's second TD run with some tough trudging up the middle. Martinez punched it in from 13 yards out to give Le Grand a commanding looking 20-6 lead with 1:43 left in the third quarter.

The Grizzlies didn't go away quietly.

Tight end Nick White (three catches, 111) had already gashed Le Grand for GS's two biggest plays in the game, but still found himself open down the seam for a 33-yard TD reception with 4:38 to play.

GS head coach John Hilton didn't hesitate, immediately going for the onside kick and recovering it at the 50.

The Grizzlies got as close as the LG 29, but Daniel Lesher’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete and Le Grand took a victory knee on the Grape Bowl turf for the fourth straight year.

“We were happy with the way we moved the ball, but we’d just make a mistake here or there and all of a sudden a drive would stall,” Hilton said. “Le Grand took advantage pretty much every time. They showed why they are a 12-0 team.”

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