Lassen breaks through, hosts Division I championship game against Enterprise tom
After three years of heartbreak in the semifinals, Lassen High School's football team has made it to the Northern Section Division I championship game. The top-seeded Grizzlies won their 11th straight game last Friday, holding on to beat No. 4 Foothill 20-14 at home in a classic battle.
With less than a minute to go, Lassen's defense dug in and stopped the Cougars on three consecutive plays with just a yard to go for a first down. Lassen's Ben Baker sacked Foothill's Ryan Bridges on fourth down and the Grizzlies were on their way to the title game.
"It's feels great," Lassen head coach Tom St. Jacques said. "It was real emotional for the players, us coaches and the fans at the end of the game. We felt the pressure to get to the championship game and pulled it off. It's a big weight lifted off our shoulders."
The win avenges losses to Wheatland, Red Bluff and Paradise in the last three semifinal games and pits Lassen up against No. 2 Enterprise this Wednesday.
The Hornets (9-2) slipped past No. 6 Pleasant Valley 17-7 in its semifinal game, earning the right to defend the Division I crown.
The title game will start at 7 p.m. at Arnold Field.
"Enterprise will be ready for us and no doubt the game will be our toughest so far this season," said St. Jacques, who led Lassen to a 7-0 win over Enterprise in the two teams' last meeting. "Obviously, they're a great football team. They've got three backs that can fly and they have one of the best defenses in the section."
Enterprise is one of the most well-coached teams in the section, and one of the quickest. Head coach Clay Erro has the luxury of handing the ball off to three proven backs - K.C. Clapsaddle, Brody Angley or Ben Jesson.
"We've got to stop those guys in order to win. If we make a mistake on defense, one of those guys is going to break loose for a touchdown. We've been up against some talented backs this season and stopped them. We're going to have to do it one more time," St. Jacques. said.
Lassen comes into the game relatively healthy, with a host of players nursing minor aches and pains. Linebacker Shawn Viss' shoulder injury makes him doubtful for the game and running back Cody Frailey is expected to play despite a hip pointer.
After John Black scored on a four-yard keeper to give Lassen a 7-0 lead over Foothill in the first quarter, he lobbed a short pass into the arms of Frailey minutes before halftime and the Grizzlies took a 14-7 advantage into the locker room.
Then Foothill staged a nine-minute drive to start the third quarter. Jake Pettengill and Tony LaRussa pulled the Cougars into Lassen territory, and after a hook-and-lateral and a double reverse to Jeff Loveless, LaRussa dove two yards into the end zone to even the score.
After two stalled drives, the Grizzlies grabbed the lead, courtesy of Ryan Marshall's 50-yard return to Foothill's two-yard line with 9:44 to play.
"Ryan's return was definitely the difference in the second half," St. Jacques said. "It gave us back the momentum and set up a huge touchdown."
"I had good blocking in front of me and just had to make one move to get free," Marshall said. "It turned out to be a big play."
Black pushed his way into the end zone from there and Lassen led by only six points after Matt Lively' extra-point attempt was blocked by LaRussa.
"Marshall then got off a great punt to make Foothill drive most of the field for the win," St. Jacques said.
"I just didn't want to kick it to (Pettengill) and get it out of bounds," Marshall said.
Lassen followed up with a memorable defensive stand and gave itself a chance for its first section title since 1984.
Ross Sobierajski led Lassen on the ground, rushing for 101 yards in 12 carries. Black completed four of seven passes for 51 yards.
"We had great special teams play. The kickoff return team gave good field position and set up our offense nicely," said St. Jacques, who won two section titles as an assistant coach at Corona High School before coming to Lassen.
Ticket prices for this Wednesday's game cost $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and $4 for students.