Too little too late might be one way to describe the 32-14 drubbing the Sunnyside High School football team laid on the visiting Hanford Falcons last Friday night.
Closing out Columbia Basin Big Nine League play, the Grizzlies finished up their regular season conference schedule by dominating a Falcons squad that, ironically, is headed to the 3A State playoffs.
Sunnyside (2-5, 3-6), one victory shy of qualifying for postseason play, is relegated, check that, being given an opportunity to avenge an earlier season defeat at the hands of the West Valley Rams. The final match-up of the 2011 season for both the Grizzlies and Rams will be staged on Sunnyside's home field this coming Thursday. Game time has been moved up from the regular 7:30 p.m. starting time to 7 o'clock.
In knocking off Hanford (3-4, 3-6) last Friday, the fourth and final CBBN playoff qualifier, the Grizzlies stepped up big in all aspects of the game.
"We played well enough to be the No. 4, or even the No. 3, playoff team," said SHS Coach Mark Marro.
To put it bluntly, "...we dominated them on both sides of the ball. We beat them up and down the field.
"Heading into the game, we challenged our kids," Marro continued. "We told them this was their playoff game. And quite honestly, we played about as good as we have all year."
Hanford opened the scoring last Friday midway through the opening quarter, jumping out to a short-lived 7-0 lead. Running back Jason Devine, the Falcons' leading rusher on the night with 68 yards on 13 totes, broke free for a 9-yard scamper into the end zone. Will Bishop booted through the PAT attempt.
Sunnyside countered with just over a minute remaining in the first period, drawing within 7-3 on the first of two field goals off the foot of senior Israel Manzo. His first field goal of the night was good from 32 yards out.
The Grizzlies took the lead for good with 6:03 showing on the first half clock. Junior QB Eduardo Salmeron, completing his first season as the starting signal caller for the Grizzlies, found senior running back Jacob Ross open and lofted a short pass to him. Ross, who caught two passes on the night and took two hand-offs from Salmeron in the game that netted nine rushing yards, hauled in the pigskin and busted loose for eight yards to pay dirt. Manzo's PAT kick gave Sunnyside a 10-7 advantage.
The Falcons probably would have been thrilled to go into intermission trailing by just three, especially with having Sunnyside pinned deep on its own 23-yard line with just enough time on the clock for one more play. The Grizzlies, however, thrust a dagger deep into the Falcons' psyche when Manzo found daylight and was off to the races. He sped 77 yards, crossing the goal line with no time showing on the clock to up Sunnyside's lead to 16-7.
Sunnyside inserted the second nail into the Falcons' coffin at the halfway point of the third quarter. Like the Grizzlies' opening score of the night, Salmeron hooked up with Ross, this one a 16-yard TD toss that gave the Grizzlies a 22-7 lead.
Salmeron, although he only put up 4-of-13 passing numbers for 87 yards total, never turned the ball over. Much of the success Salmeron enjoyed last Friday in finding his receivers and in the way they advanced the pigskin after making a catch can be credited to some excellent downfield blocking. Senior wideout Ricky Palomarez, said Marro, especially provided some great blocking after the catches were made, as did wide receivers Brandon Daley, Trey Serl and Joseph Contreras.
Serl and Contreras also hauled in three passes combined from Salmeron for a total of 55 yards.
Sunnyside officially buried Hanford's grid team on the Grizzlies' next offensive possession. Manzo capped off the drive with a 19-yard breakaway, adding the extra-point kick, which upped the home team's lead to 29-7.
Manzo, who missed the first half of the season, proved to be the workhorse for Sunnyside last Friday. He rushed for 203 yards on 26 carries. He also completed his one and only pass on the night, a 40-yard gain to Contreras.
Hanford put up a meaningless score just after the fourth quarter got underway, on a 21-yard touchdown run by Bishop.
Sunnyside accounted for the final 32-14 outcome on a 34-yard field goal by Manzo with just under four minutes to play.
Marro said it could have been an even bigger blowout had two TD passes not been dropped by his team. That aside, Marro said he couldn't be more pleased with how his offense performed last Friday.
"Especially since we put the triple option into our scheme last Friday," he said, explaining the entire season has been a progression to transitioning the Grizzlies into a finely tuned machine that is capable of rolling up and down the field consistently.
Marro, too, had plenty of praise for his defensive unit. Having scouted the Falcons, the Grizzly coaching staff knew Hanford liked to run the ball, about two times to every one pass they attempt.
"We were really concentrated on taking away their run," said Marro, detailing how his Grizzlies went with a 5-2 defensive alignment at the line of scrimmage. "We wanted to really fill the box."
That meant the SHS coaching staff had to rely on the defensive backs to provide tight, one-on-one, no-help coverage. "We were confident our DBs would," he said.
And, they did. Safeties Isidro Ramirez and Manzo, as well as the cornerbacks Serl and Contreras, limited Hanford QB Austin Forsyth to just six completions in 13 attempts, for only 63 yards.
With Sunnyside's DBs shutting down the aerial attack, the seven Grizzly defenders in the box kept the Falcons to below 100 yards rushing.
"Defensively, it was a great scheme," said Marro.
Besides the 203 rushing yards tallied by Manzo, Sunnyside received a five-carry, 70-yard performance from junior Ramon Hernandez. Salmeron tacked on another 24 rushing yards by scrambling out of the pocket seven times.
In looking ahead to the final game of the 2011 season this coming Thursday evening at home against the West Valley Rams, who clipped Sunnyside by a 22-12 margin back in mid-September, Marro said his club wants to go out winners.
"Our seniors want to finish things up right.
"And the other kids, they want to keep getting better," he said.
Which means, simply put, the Grizzlies are gunning for their first back-to-back wins of the season and a victory they can build upon when the 2012 season rolls around.