Grizzlies give Eagles a run for their money, lose by one-point in first round of playoffs
|David Vicondoa, No. 55, gets the play call from defensive coordinator, Scott Brown during the Grizzlies one-point loss to the Eagles Friday, Nov. 9 ending their season. Photo submitted|
The Lassen High School (LHS) traveled to Cottonwood, Calif. to take on the West Valley Eagles in the first round of the Northern Section California Interscholastic Federation (NSCIF) playoffs. The Grizzlies gave the Eagles a scare as they only lost by one-point, 21-20, while most people thought the Eagles would run away with the victory.
The two teams are both in the Northern Athletic League (NAL) and faced off earlier in the year, with the Eagles winning 34-14. The Grizzlies came into the game as the sixth-seed in the playoffs, while the Eagles were the number-three seed.
The Eagles were heavily favored to win the game with ease as they were predicted to win the game by 21 points or more. The Grizzlies didn't get the memo as they battled throughout the game.
The game got started early as the Eagles got the ball to start the game. They reached the endzone in four plays gaining more than 80 yards on the ground in less than a minute and a half, giving them the early 7-0 lead.
The Grizzlies took over and quarterback Nathan Freeman got things started early as he connected with receiver Frank Shepherd for an 11-yard gain. Freeman then connected with sophomore Case Bennett for 15 yards, but at the end of the play Bennett fumbled the ball and the Eagles recovered.
After the big first drive the Eagles had, the Grizzlies buckled down and forced the Eagles to punt the ball away. Freeman, who had his best game at quarterback took to the field and got things started with a 29-yard scamper into the Eagles' territory. He then connected with Israel Perez for a 25-yard completion, which got the Grizzlies down to the 25-yard line.
After a false start moved the Grizzlies back five yards, a pass that was intended for Colby Chavez was broken up forcing a fourth down. The leader in the Northern Section for field goals, Brian McDonald, stepped on to the field to attempt at 39-yard field goal. It had the distance, but was just a couple of inches wide to the left.
The Eagles took over and did nothing with the ball, as senior captain, David Vicondoa, who is in the top five in the Northern Section in tackles recorded his seventh tackle in the first quarter alone halting the Eagles' drive. With the first quarter in the books, the Grizzlies were still down by seven. Freeman connected with Perez for a 38-yard completion getting the Grizzlies down to the 35-yard line. Freeman got sacked on third down taking them out of field goal range and forcing them to go for it on fourth down. Freeman's pass to Bryan Schaake was broken up, turning the ball over on downs.
The Eagles took over and on their second play of the drive; their running back took the hand off to the outside and was in the endzone for a 58-yard touchdown, bringing the score to 14-0. The Eagles took a 14-0 lead into the half but the game was far from over.
The Grizzlies were having an excellent game on both sides of the field, and the only reason the Eagles had the lead was because they had four big plays that eventually got them into the endzone. The Grizzlies weren't ready to give up, as they devised new schemes during halftime on defense to stop the Eagles' outside rushing attack.
Freeman went into halftime on track to beat his career high of 259 yards passing as he had completed six of his 13 attempts for 131 yards. Perez had 105 of those yards on three receptions. Freeman was also the leading rusher, as he had 40 yards on three attempts. Vicondoa was playing like a man possessed tallying up seven tackles in the first half, all of which came in the first quarter.
Chavez and Austin Silveria both had three. The schemes the Grizzlies discussed at halftime paid off as they methodically drove the ball 82 yards into the endzone eating up six and a half minutes off the clock to get the third quarter started.
Freeman came out on fire as he completed five of his six attempts for 61 yards and a touchdown. Shepherd was on the receiving end of the touchdown as he made a nice cut into the endzone. McDonald's extra point attempt was blocked, making the score 14-6.
The Eagles answered back with touchdown of their own, after the 50-yard kickoff return set them up with good field position. Their running backs then got the ball across the goal line, giving them a 15-point lead, 21-6. On the Grizzlies' next possession it looked as if they were going to march right down the field and score again. Freeman connected with Shepherd over the middle on a slant route for a first down.
On the very next play they tried the same thing and the defense reacted to it perfectly this time as the defender jumped in front of Shepherd, intercepting the ball. Any momentum the Grizzlies had was gone and it looked like the Eagles were just going to run away with it. But the Grizzlies defense stepped up and forced them to punt the ball.
They were led by two sophomores, who were brought up for playoffs, Jake Thomas and Kyle Barnetche, each had two tackles apiece in the series. The Grizzlies took over on their own 18-yard line. McDonald caught a 16-yard pass as the Grizzlies started the long drive to get into the endzone. Perez then caught a 14-yard pass to end the third quarter. The Grizzlies started the fourth quarter on the Eagles' 26-yard line. McDonald was on the receiving end of a bullet by Freeman that got the Grizzlies down to the 1-yard line. Freeman was initially stopped on the quarterback sneak play but bounced off the tacklers and got into the endzone.
The Grizzlies had to go for the two-point conversion seeing as how it would make them only down by seven points. Freeman rolled out to the right and walked into the endzone, making the score 21-14.
The Eagles took over and on fourth down and five yards to go, with six minutes and 20 seconds remaining in the game, decided to go for it. The toss play that had worked all night for the Eagles, was stuffed by Colton Faure and a gang of Grizzlies, turning the ball over on downs.
The Grizzlies, needing a touchdown to tie it up and force overtime were stopped on third down and forced to punt. Freeman stepped back to punt. As he kicked the ball, he was hit by an Eagles defender, giving the Grizzlies an automatic first down for roughing the kicker.
The Grizzlies capitalized on this mistake, as Freeman found Shepherd in the corner of the endzone for the touchdown. The Grizzlies decided to go for the two-point conversion, which ultimately decided the game. If the Grizzlies converted it, they won, if not they lose, ending their season. Freeman rolled out to the right and had heavy pressure, he threw the ball into the endzone and no one was there to complete the pass, ending the game 21-20.
Freeman finished with his best game at quarterback, throwing for 284 yards on 20 completions out of 34 attempts along with 50 yards rushing on 6 attempts. Shepherd finished with 67 yards receiving on 6 catches and two touchdowns. Perez caught six passes for 137 yards. Vicondoa led the Grizzlies' defense again with 13 tackles. Chavez had six, Silveria had six and McCallister had five. The Grizzlies have nothing to hang their heads down for. They came in as big underdogs to the Eagles and almost came away with a huge upset. They played their hearts out and that's all you can do.
The season is now over and the awards ceremony will be coming up. Details on the ceremony wasn't made available by press time.