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Thunder take down a monster

Rocklin tops Grant 21-19
By: Russ Edmondson The Placer Herald
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Rocklin High led Grant for most of the game on Saturday night but it appeared as though the night would end with just a moral victory for the Thunder. The Thunder had battled the Pacers with everything they had at Folsom High but a defeat seemed likely in this Sac-Joaquin Section Division II semifinal battle between two 12-0 teams. Grant, ranked eighth in the nation by ESPNRISE.com and the defending California state champion, had a first down and goal inside Rocklin’s one-yard line with 1:28 left in the game. Rocklin led 21-19. Amazingly that score was the final one as what followed was a goal-line stand that will be talked about in Rocklin for decades. It will be hard for the story to get better with age because what actually happened is tough to top. Grant quarterback Glenn Deary tried to sneak in for a score but he was stuffed at the line of scrimmage and the Pacers recovered his fumble. However a Rocklin penalty gave the Pacers another first down on the one. Rocklin then stuffed Grant’s star running back, Devontae Butler, three times in a row. He ran for no gain twice and then was pushed back to the two-yard line to set up a fourth down at the Rocklin 2 with just two seconds left. Grant sophomore Charlie Vue’s 19-yard field goal attempt was wide left on the final play. Bedlam ensued on the Rocklin sideline. Players on both teams fell to the ground in tears. Rocklin coaches searched for anybody to hug. Grant’s fans couldn’t believe that the Pacers had suffered their first loss since November of 2007 (27 games). Rocklin fans went crazy, yelling, high-fiving and running around. Rocklin senior Sean Moore was on the field for the field-goal attempt. “I thought it was good – and then I saw him (the ref) say it was no good,” Moore said. “We stopped them three times,” said Rocklin coach Greg Benzel, perhaps reminding himself that what he had seen at the end of the game had actually happened. “I’m not sure how many people gave us a chance but I know our guys believed all week that we could do this . . . And these guys got after it.” Rocklin led 21-6 at the half and didn’t score in the second half. The second half got off to a terrible start for the Thunder as Grant’s Shaquille Thompson returned the kickoff to Rocklin’s seven. Butler ran in a touchdown on the next play and Grant closed to within 21-12 (2-point conversion was no good). Later in the quarter Butler, 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, ran up the middle for a 64-yard touchdown to make it 21-19 with 35 seconds left in the third. He broke several tackles on his way to the end zone. Neither team really got anything going in the fourth quarter but Grant came through with a blocked punt with 3:24 left in the game. Rocklin was at its own 49-yard-line when it lined up to punt but Grant’s Vidal Davis and Faigame Lopa combined to block Brian Wardlaw’s kick. The Pacers took over at Rocklin’s 29. That was the drive that ended with the missed field goal that no one in attendance will soon forget. Thunder senior running back Jackson Cummings was on the field at defensive back during Grant’s final drive. “It’s a great feeling - they had one yard to win the game,” Cummings said. “We came in confident – we knew we were a great team. Take nothing away from Grant – they are a great team. But we came in confident.” Rocklin turned the ball over on its opening possession of the game (interception) and Grant drove 74 yards for a touchdown to go up 6-0 (missed extra point). Butler scored from two yards out with 6:27 left in the first quarter. Rocklin would close out the first half 21-0. The first score came on fourth-and-seven with 38 seconds left in the first quarter. Rocklin junior quarterback Jimmy Laughrea threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Garvella to put Rocklin up 7-6 (Rocklin’s Vincent Barrow was 3-for-3 on extra points). Rocklin’s next scoring drive came late in the second quarter when the Thunder drove 68 yards in eight plays to go up 14-6. Moore caught two passes for 26 yards on the drive that ended with a one-yard run by Cummings. Laughrea also hit Garvella for a 33-yard pass on the drive. Rocklin’s final score of the night came with 29 seconds left in the first half. Grant tried to cover Rocklin senior Holden Huff, 6-foot-6, one-on-one and Huff managed to get open in the end zone on a 41-yard touchdown pass from Laughrea. Rocklin turned the ball over twice in the game (both interceptions) while Grant had four turnovers (two fumbles in each half). Laughrea was 18-of-34 passing for 250 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. His top targets were Garvella (five catches, 78 yards, one touchdown), Huff (four-70, one touchdown), Moore (two-26), Tiger Sorenson (two-28) and Cummings (four-41). Cummings ran 23 times for 77 yards and a touchdown. Grant’s Butler ran 33 times for 229 yards and three touchdowns but he did lose two fumbles. He finished the season with 45 rushing touchdowns and 2,866 rushing yards. Rocklin held Butler (6.94 yards per carry) well under his season average of 11.27 yards per carry coming into the game. And 114 of Butler’s yards came on two runs. “We knew he’d bust a few loose,” Benzel said. “(Our game plan) was to put as many guys around him as possible – and just hold him until your buddies come to help you out.” Rocklin is now 13-0 on the season and will play Del Oro for the Sac-Joaquin Section, Division II championship at 8 p.m. at UC Davis next Friday night. Rocklin beat visiting Del Oro 24-21 in Sierra Foothill League play earlier this season. Del Oro beat Rocklin in the DII title game in 2005.