SEATTLE - Sunnyside Coach Mark Marro isn't one to lambaste an official for a call that many would say cost his team a victory. But when asked if the pass interference penalty that was assessed his club late in Saturday night's game was a horrible call, Marro couldn't offer up much support for the referee in question.
Simply put, the Grizzly football team got homered this past Saturday evening on the field of Eastside Catholic. A very questionable pass interference call with about two minutes remaining allowed the home team to keep alive its game winning drive. Shortly after, Eastside Catholic quarterback Dave Roberts hooked up with Jason Butler on a 50-yard TD pass that gave the Seattle area team a 14-7 victory.
"It was a tough way to have it end," said Marro.
Sunnyside forged a 6-0 lead on Eastside Catholic when Joe Schwartz bulled his way into the end zone from eight yards out. The TD run came in the opening quarter. Pete Marquez's successful extra point kick upped the Grizzlies' lead to 7-0.
To Eastside Catholic's credit, they kept the Grizzlies off the scoreboard the remainder of the contest. But that isn't to say Sunnyside didn't have its way Saturday night. Playing in a steady downpour, Marro opted to make the run the featured attack, and boy, did it work.
Using the one-two punch of Schwartz and Greg Gilleland, the Grizzlies rolled up nearly 215 yards on the ground.
"The two runners complement each other well," said Marro, explaining that the 6'1", 220-lb. Schwartz is a power runner, while the 150-lb. Gilleland is more of a scatback type back.
"Joe (Schwartz) is rarely taken down by the first hit, and often the second hit doesn't do it, either," said Marro in accounting for the 120 yards Schwartz gained Saturday.
In contrast, the much smaller but speedier Gilleland picks and weaves his way between defenders. Gilleland scooted in and out and around Eastside Catholic's defensive squad well enough to pick up 93 yards on the ground. The contrasting running styles kept Eastside Catholic off-balance all night long.
Much of Schwartz and Gilleland's success toting the ball Saturday night has to be credited, though, to Sunnyside's offensive line-especially the left side. Marro said the trio of Pete Garza, Lucas Ramos and Daniel Escobar did an exceptional job of opening up holes for the two runners.
Marro did note, however, that some of Sunnyside's younger offensive linemen need to make rapid improvement. "Our line play has to get better," he said of the underclassmen.
To keep the home team on its toes even more, Marro called enough passing plays so that Eastside Catholic's defensive backs couldn't crowd the line to help stop the run. Surprisingly, considering the heavy rain quarterback Tony Cantu had to contend with, the Grizzly QB connected on 10 of his 17 attempts, tallying 72 yards through the air. And, he didn't serve up any interceptions.
Unfortunately, the one miscue Cantu committed came at a most inopportune time-on the Grizzlies' last drive of the night. With Sunnyside trying to tie the game with under a minute to play, advancing the ball all the way to inside Eastside Catholic's 30-yard line, Cantu fumbled away a snap that Eastside Catholic pounced on.
What is surprising is that Cantu fumbled the ball only once all night long. With the heavy rains, Marro said it became increasingly difficult to grip the pigskin.
To those who might point to Cantu for ending the potential game tying drive, Marro said there never is just one play that wins or loses a ballgame.
"We were in the position we were in because of how we played as a team," he said.
Eastside Catholic didn't get its first score of the game until after the fourth quarter got underway. Roberts and Corey Williams got the home team on the board when they connected on a 34-yard touchdown pass. Eastside Catholic failed to square the contest at 7-all, though, as Sunnyside's Chris Guevara raced in to block the extra point attempt.
The Seattle private school team grabbed the lead from Sunnyside with just under two minutes to play, on the 50-yard bomb Roberts delivered to Butler following the controversial pass interference call. A two-point conversion pass, from Roberts to Williams, accounted for the final 14-7 score.
With the exception of the two final period touchdown receptions, Sunnyside held Eastside Catholic to just 62 yards passing. The Grizzly defensive unit also only allowed 54 rushing yards.
"Except for those two big plays late in the fourth quarter, we controlled the whole game," said Marro.
He is particularly proud of the job his defense did against the Seattle team.
"It was a phenomenal effort," said Marro, mentioning the defensive line play of Daniel Cruz and Pete Garza, as well as the outstanding jobs that linebackers Charlie Hazzard and Chris Guevara turned in. Marro, too, said he was pleased with the play of defensive backs Noe Zamarron and Pete Marquez.
The seven-point loss Sunnyside sustained Saturday evening was its first defeat of the season. The Grizzlies (0-0, 2-1) must now prepare for six consecutive Mid-Valley League games, including its conference opener at home this coming Friday night against the perennially tough Prosser Mustangs.
"Prosser always gives you its best," said Marro.
"Both us and Prosser have had a rugged non-league schedule, with most of the games on the road.
"When they come into town Friday night, we're going to do what we do well. It will be business as usual, no surprises to speak of," Marro said.