Simply put, the Sunnyside Grizzlies let one get away last Friday night. A victory, that is, against the visiting 4A Davis Pirates.
Sadly for the 3A Grizzly football team, the game was winnable, very winnable. Three costly fumbles by Sunnyside, however, allowed the Pirates to sail out of town with a 28-27 win.
Davis, just two games into the 2010 season, now has a pair of victories over two 3A foes. Sunnyside closes out the non-league part of its schedule with a 1-1 mark.
There were lots of positives that came out of last Friday's game for the Grizzlies. Chief among them was a pile of offensive yardage. Sunnyside tallied 223 yards on the ground, thanks to a game-high 149-yard effort by junior Steven Monterrey. The Grizzlies also netted 134 yards through the air on the 11-of-24 passing of senior Andrew Daley.
Sunnyside's defensive unit also turned in a noteworthy effort. The Grizzly defenders limited the Pirates to just 132 rushing yards total, thanks in large part to linemen Adam Peters, a 6'3", 285-lb. senior, and Eric Amaro, a 6'2", 190-lb. sophomore.
"I thought our D-line played well, as did our linebackers," said Sunnyside Coach Mark Marro. "Early on here this season, we're playing the run real well."
Sunnyside's defensive backs also shined for most of the night, brilliantly enough to pick the Pirates' highly touted QB, Deion Wright, twice in last Friday's game. The two interceptions were recorded by senior Rafael Salmeron and junior Isidro Ramirez.
The Grizzly DB's, unfortunately, did get beat for two large gains, on bombs from the hard slinging Wright, one of which was a 61-yard scoring hook-up with Cooper Kupp.
"We gave up two long balls," said Marro. "The Davis QB throws the fade well.
"But you take away those two big passes and he's sitting on just 150 yards or so for the night.
"Overall, I thought we contained Wright pretty well, especially up front. We kept the pressure on him. He went down on the ground several times...taking three or four pretty big hits," Marro said.
Wright, as it turned out, threw for 272 yards on 13-of-22 passing.
Sunnyside could have lived with those numbers and still been in great shape to knock off the 4A Pirates, had the Grizzlies not coughed up the ball on three different scoring drives.
"We didn't play very clean," said Marro of the three Grizzly fumbles in Pirate territory. "We have to hold on to the ball.
"When we get in the red zone we have to learn to finish," he said.
The three lost scoring opportunities translate into three touchdowns the Grizzlies could have tacked onto the scoreboard. At the very least, even a lone field goal from any one of those three scoring drives would have given Sunnyside the win.
Davis grabbed the early lead Friday when Austin Wagner, the Pirates' leading rusher on the night with 85 yards on nine carries, broke off a 16-yarder to pay dirt on the opening drive of the game. The PAT by Christian Sheed put the visitors up 7-0.
The Pirates, guessing that Sunnyside's defensive alignment would be set up to shut down their aerial attack, went with all running plays on that opening drive.
Sunnyside's coaching staff quickly put the defensive unit back into its regular 4-4, cover 3 alignment, which relies on the speed of the Grizzlies to control all aspects of the opposing offense.
After the TD by Wagner, Sunnyside opened its first drive of the night and utilized the legs of Monterrey to advance the ball deep into Pirate territory. Monterrey's biggest gain on the Grizzlies' opening drive was a 25-yard scamper. The Grizzlies capped off the march with a 10-yard TD toss from Daley to Salmeron on a slant across the middle.
The point-after kick off the foot of senior Frankie Ochoa tied the contest at 7-all.
The Pirates' ensuing drive stalled at its own 48, which was quickly followed by a three-and-out series by the Grizzlies. A short punt to the Davis 47-yard line put the Pirates at mid-field, their first big break of the game. Their fortunes turned, however, when on the second play from scrimmage a Grizzly defender knocked the pigskin loose from a ball carrier and a Sunnyside teammate pounced on it near the mid-field stripe.
Sunnyside's offensive unit took full advantage, as Daley went to the air and found Monterrey for a first-down, who then took a hand-off from the Grizzly QB and busted a run all the way to the Davis 1-yard line. Daley tried finding a hole in the line on a quarterback keeper on the next play, but was stuffed. Running back Fernando Madrigal got his number called on second-and-goal, and the senior didn't disappoint, bouncing into the end zone behind his left tackle to give the Grizzlies a 13-7 lead.
A couple of possessions later the Pirates answered with the 61-yard scoring strike from Wright to Kupp. The PAT by Sheed, with 2:15 remaining in the opening half, gave Davis a 14-13 advantage.
The Grizzlies took the opening kick of the second half and stormed right back into contention. Marching down the field, Sunnyside capped off the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run by senior Ryan Hernandez to regain the lead at 19-14. The two-point conversion pass, however, was off the mark.
Wagner tacked on his second TD run of the night two possessions later, with 4:20 remaining in the third quarter, to put the Pirates back on top, 21-19.
After a couple of miscues on the part of the Sunnyside offense, Davis stretched its lead to 28-19 when Damon Lybeck hauled in a 10-pass TD pass from Wright.
With just over 11 minutes left in the game and needing two scores, the Grizzlies could have easily folded. Instead, Sunnyside kept plugging away and the grit the Grizzlies displayed paid off when Daley lofted a 6-yard TD toss to Salmeron. Monterrey added on a two-point conversion run to draw the Grizzlies within 28-27 with 1:20 showing on the clock.
Unfortunately for the home team it was as close as the Grizzlies would get, as the ensuing on-sides kick went directly into the hands of a Davis player.
Marro said turnovers aside, "...I was pleased we kept playing when we were down by nine."
The Sunnyside coach singled out his QB, praising him for spreading the ball around. "(Daley) is off to a good start this season. In just two games he's already thrown for 278 yards and five touchdowns, and doesn't have an interception," said Marro.
Monterrey, too, has put up impressive numbers early on, especially considering he's been moved to the featured ace back slot in Sunnyside's wing-T offensive spread.
In looking ahead to this coming Friday night, when the Grizzlies will host the Southridge Suns in the CBBN league opener for both clubs, Marro anticipates a hard fought affair.
The Suns were the pre-season pick of many to finish atop the eight-team 3A Columbia Basin league. Southridge is off to a slow start, though, having gone 0-2 in non-league action against the likes of Walla Walla and Hermiston.
Marro said his team will try to establish the run against the visiting Suns, but will keep them honest with a fair amount of passing thrown in.
RUSHING - (Davis) A. Wagner 9-85, D. Wright 2-23, R. Rodriguez 1-3, N. Rodriguez 2-21; (Sunnyside) A. Daley 6-24, E. Tejada 7-23, S. Monterrey 14-149, R. Navarro 1-6, R. Hernandez 3-6, F. Madrigal 6-15.
PASSING - (Davis) D. Wright 13-22-272-2; (Sunnyside) A. Daley 11-24-134-0.
RECEIVING - (Davis) A. Wagner 3-22, R. Rodriguez 1-8, N. Rodriguez 1-1, C. Kupp 3-145, D. Trimble 3-43, C. Chapman 1-35, D. Lybeck 1-20; (Sunnyside) E. Tejada 2-25, S. Monterrey 3-32, J. Contreras 1-10, J. Villegas 1-9, R. Salmeron 2-16, B. Daley 1-7, F. Madrigal 1-35.