Grizzlies take perfect record into WSL play
By Rob Brockmeyer
Sports Editor Lassen High School's football team emerged from the preseason undefeated for the third time in as many years, while impressing many - including its head coach.
"This is a tremendous win for us," said Lassen head coach Tom St. Jacques, who directed his team to a dramatic 16-13 road win over Foothill last Saturday. "It was the finest victory I can remember one of my teams having since I got here at Lassen."
Down 13-10 with less than four minutes left, Lassen marched 77 yards on the game-winning drive, ending with Ross Sobierajski's two-yard run.
Much to the delight of the homecoming crowd, Jake Pettengill had scored on a 30-yard reception to give Foothill the lead, forcing Lassen's John Black and Sobierajski to go to work.
Black kept the drive alive, throwing to Ryan Marshall for a first down. Seconds later, Sobierajski rattled off a 42-yard run and Black broke free to Foothill's two-yard line on third-and-long.
"John and Ross made some big plays on that drive. Like a lot of guys did that night, those two got the job done to win the game," St. Jacques said.
Early on, it looked as if Lassen was going to run away with the game, jumping out to a 10-0 lead before the end of the first quarter.
Mitch Lively booted a 35-yard field goal to give the Grizzlies a 3-0 lead after Cody Frailey and Sobierajski moved the team into field-goal range.
The Cougar offense then sputtered and Lassen found the end zone on a 70-yard drive, sparked by a 55-yard pass from Black to Marshall. Frailey scored on a six-yard run.
"We had them on their heels," St. Jacques said. "We were moving the ball at will and our defense was stuffing everything they tried to do. Then in the second quarter our offense stalled and we allowed them to get back in the game."
Foothill (3-2) drove to Lassen's five-yard line, where the Grizzlies stopped a touchdown with a goal-line stand. But Lassen subsequently fumbled and Foothill's Tony LaRussa later ran it in for the score to make it 10-6 at halftime.
Lassen stood its ground in the second half despite a host of nagging injuries to Ben Baker, Andrew Alkire, Nick Galassi and Travis Fitzpatrick.
"I told them at halftime that we were in a war and we had lost some soldiers," said St. Jacques, who watched his team fail to get a first down in the third quarter. "It was an ultimate team effort. The guys pulled together in one of the hardest hitting games I've seen."
St. Jacques praised the play of Austin Azevedo who subbed for Baker; Ryan Verboomen who played in place of Galassi, and Black who moved to cornerback.
Sobierajski rushed for 104 yards in 13 carries, and Frailey gained 45 yards in six carries. Black completed three of eight passes for 72 yards.
The win most likely qualified Lassen for the playoffs. The Grizzlies have beaten three Division I teams and are the only undefeated team in Division I.
Lassen (5-0) starts its defense of the Westside League crown this Friday when it hosts Gridley. The Bulldogs are 1-4 and figure to be harmless.
"It's a game we should win, but like always we can't overlook them. Hopefully can win and get healthy at the same time," St. Jacques said.
Wide receiver Chuck Mahan may return late in the season, despite severing a finger during homecoming festivities last month. And St. Jacques is not ruling out the possibility of Taylor Polan returning to the team for the playoffs.
"It's a remote possibility, but it could happen. Taylor wants to come back before then," he said.
Corning remained undefeated, edging West Valley 19-14.
Lassen's junior varsity team lost 20-12 with a chance to win the game in the final minutes, and the freshmen were shut out.