FB: Granite Bay overcomes Pitt

In a game in which there were eight lead changes, it’s obvious that the defending CIF Division I state champion Granite Bay football team was relieved and exhausted to be getting out of Pittsburg with a 39-35 victory on Friday night.

And although Pitt did lose its opening game to Analy of Sebastopol, it wasn’t at full strength that night and came into the game on a three-game win streak. The Pirates also were bringing to bear the hottest running back in Northern California, senior Harris Ross, and it was their first game at the revamped Pirate Stadium complete with new turf.

Ross was sensational and came within a few plays of leading the Pirates to a win over the state’s No. 23-ranked team. He had 22 carries for 297 yards, including scoring bursts of 66, 59 and 72 yards, and he caught a 32-yard touchdown pass for Pitt’s first points.

Granite Bay overcame it by going to the air. Senior quarterback Josh Neal connected on 19 of 26 passes for 289 yards and four touchdowns. He was especially effective looking to senior Marc Ellis (11 catches, 159 yards, 2 TDs) and also had scoring strikes to Tony Ellison (59 yards) and Dylan Keeney (15 yards).

The final Neal to Ellis TD pass came with 5:15 left in the game and gave the Grizzlies a 39-35 lead. Pitt would have two more chances to take yet another lead change, but was stopped on a fourth down play from its own 22-yard line with just under two minutes left and then in the final seconds got the ball to the 50-yard line. The win was sealed for Granite Bay with four seconds left on an interception by Arman Mizani, who eventually fumbled with it being recovered by teammate Tre Ball.

“Oh, yeah, this was a great win because of what we overcame,” said Granite Bay head coach Skip Alfaro, who’s 3-1 team has lost its only game to No. 3 state-ranked Folsom. “It’s a great team with a great program and they won last year at our place. This time we won at their place.”

The Grizzlies also had to overcome an injury suffered by Ellison, the standout senior and University of Arizona commit who scored the team’s first two touchdowns on a 61-yard run and then on the 59-yard pass from Neal. He went down on the next series and did not return. He had his left knee iced and tested. Alfaro said he didn’t know the extent of the injury, but the body language of Ellison and his teammates around him was not positive.

Granite Bay plays next week at winless Lincoln of Stockton, but it is a team that has played one of the toughest schedules in Northern California. Pittsburg will be idle and despite the loss still looks like a strong contender to be the second-best team in the East Bay this season after De La Salle.

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