Eliminating the mistakes that have plagued them in their first three games of the year, Gridley played its best all-around game so far and earned their first win 21-6 over Marysville.
"We don't relax one bit," head coach John Cooprider yelled to his players. "We step it up now."
The message came after the Bulldogs earned their first win of the year 21-6 over Marysville. As excited as he was about the win, this needed to be the beginning of something.
Gridley (1-3) had come so close in their first three games, losing by just one point in the first two, and leading in the third before things fell apart. Crucial mistakes, including seven turnovers in one loss and 22 penalties in another, had hurt them. They eliminated these mistakes against the Indians and it paid off.
"We needed this badly," Cooprider said. "Winning cures everything. It's tough when you get close and you make a lot of mistakes. Lot of hard learning lessons over the past three weeks. Tonight we put it together and even made a few mistakes, but we overcame those mistakes and got after it and kept playing hard."
Gridley's defense has been dominant the entire season, and with the mistakes on both sides of the ball held to a minimum, they shined. It was the second time this year they've held an opponent to just six points.
Marysville (0-3) won the field position battle early on, and they took advantage of a short field to score the game's first touchdown on a four-yard run by Dylan Bond. When Gridley jumped offside on the point after, the Indians elected to go for two. The Bulldogs stuffed the run attempt, led by Matt Reinhardt.
A series later, Erick Garcia swung the momentum over to Gridley when he stepped in front of a receiver for an interception at the Marysville 40-yard line. On the very next play, Dakota Sisk followed perfect blocking on a toss to the right, cut upfield and scored easily. Carlos Alejo's extra point gave Gridley a 7-6 lead toward the end of the first quarter.
Gridley's first drive of the second quarter looked to be its best as they moved the ball with Sisk (85 yards rushing) and Shane Cassity (89 yards) on the ground, and quarterback Zane McFarlane moving the ball through the air. Gridley moved down to the 21 after a 16-yard run by Cassity, but the drive stalled and a desperation pass into the endzone on 4th-and-21 was picked off.
McFarlane played the first half as a replacement to Anthony Paredes, who missed two practices due to sickness during the week. He finished with four completions for 39 yards, and Cooprider said the offensive game plan changed very little with him in the game.
"Zane did a great job," he said. "Zane does some different things that Anthony doesn't do. We're going to explore maybe doing a little of both."
Connor Anderson got the ball rolling to start the second half as he returned the kickoff to the 46-yard line. Paredes ran for 16 on a keeper on the next play, and then again for 10 more to the Indians 28.
On 3rd-and-8, he rolled to the right and threw a 26-yard touchdown to Jessep MacFarlane. Alejo's extra point gave Gridley an eight point, 14-6 lead, which would have been more than enough as the Bulldog defense didn't let the Indians anywhere near scoring range.
As they entered Bulldogs territory toward the end of the third, Garcia forced a fumble that Anderson recovered. The Bulldogs had four sacks in the game, one by Anderson, Cassity, Raymond Huff and Jose Avina. Sisk led the team with 11 tackles, while Cassity had 10, Alexander Agapiades had nine and Imran Khan had seven.
Chase Aldridge led the receivers with seven catches and 33 yards.
With the Indians fighting to come back in the fourth quarter, Avina and Sisk pressured quarterback Chant DeForest and threw him down as his 4th down pass fell incomplete. Taking over with 3:53 remaining in the game, Gridley had the chance to run out as much clock as possible and rely on their defense one last time.
From the Marysville 37, Sisk ran up the middle for nine yards, followed by an eight-yard Cassity run for a first down. Sisk then broke free to the two-yard line, and scored a couple plays later with 1:14 remaining. Up 21-6 now, Marysville needed a miracle to come back, but that wasn't happening against the Gridley defense.
A deep pass down the sideline was perfectly covered by MacFarlane, who put the exclamation point on the win by leaping for the interception and keeping possession as he hit the ground. A couple kneel downs later and the Bulldogs were officially in the win column.