After Elk Grove lost with a chance at a Delta League championship against Cosumnes Oaks 23-12 on Oct. 25, the Thundering Herd may have thought they would not have had a chance at revenge until at the earliest the following season.
Although, because of their upset victory last week at third seeded Vacaville, and Cosumnes Oaks coming from behind to beat Granite Bay, a chance at revenge is exactly what Elk Grove got, this time, with the opportunity of eliminating second seeded Cosumnes Oaks from the playoffs and securing a Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship game birth all in the process. As a result of getting out to an early lead, and making key plays when they needed to, sixth seeded Elk Grove was able to serve up a dish of revenge, served cold to the second seeded Wolfpack and advance to next week’s CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship game with a 28-20 victory at Cosumnes Oaks High School.
“We played good enough to win but I don’t think we put together a perfect game,” said Elk Grove head coach John Heffernan.
“The defense played great tonight and were able to take away the deep ball and get pressure on the quarterback which we were not able to do in the first game against them.”
After both teams struggled to move the ball offensively on their first few drives, Elk Grove was able to establish themselves with the triple option and have success against Cosumnes Oaks’ defense. Running back Hunter Hall was able to take a pitch around the left side for a 67-yard touchdown run and after a quick stop on defense, running back Jeremy Crook ran in from six yards out to give the Thundering Herd a 14-point advantage in the first quarter.
“We had some momentum early on with scoring quick twice,” Heffernan said.
This season Cosumnes Oaks have had a pattern of starting off games slow and getting themselves into early deficits. Although, the Wolfpack have been able to get out of those holes and turn games around which is what they were able to do.
Cosumnes Oaks were able to bounce back after being down double digits twice in the first half. The Wolfpack offensively with a lot of motion from their wide receivers and even a no-huddle offense at times to keep Elk Grove’s defense on their heels.
Running back Christina Ridgway consistently found holes in Elk Grove’s defense and gashed the Thundering Herd with runs up the middle. Ridgway was able to score just before halftime on a one-yard touchdown run to keep the game in Cosumnes Oaks’ grasp and only be down by seven going into the second half.
“He is a stud and we made some adjustments on the offense to open up some more stuff for him,” said Cosumnes Oaks head coach Andrew Bettencourt.
Going into the second half, the Wolfpack came out clicking on all cylinders on the ground with Ridgway once again. Ridgway ran the ball on the first two plays of the second half to get Cosumnes Oaks into the red zone. Although, the drive stalled and the Wolfpack had to resort to a field goal near the goal line by kicker Kevin Duarte.
During a defensive battle in the second half, another Duarte field goal would cut Elk Grove’s lead to one and give Cosumnes Oaks all the momentum heading into the fourth quarter.
That was until a running back pass on a third and seven for Elk Grove would flip the game on its head and be the deciding play of the game.
Due to Hall’s speed, and effectiveness on the perimeter, Cosumnes Oaks defensive back Branden Jennings fell for the fake and left Elk Grove wide receiver Khalani Riddick wide open for a 45-yard touchdown which gave the Thundering Herd an eight point lead with nine minutes to play.
“There secondary guys were triggered on the motion and played run the whole way and although we run the ball alot we have to be able to hurt people in the air and that play was huge,” Heffernan said.
With a 28-20 lead, Elk Grove, and their defense in particular, was able to apply pressure to Cosumnes Oaks quarterback Anthony Grigsby Jr. and force him into making some tough throws.
Elk Grove intercepted Grigsby four times on the night including two in the fourth quarter by safety Nick Woolstencroft which stopped any chance Cosumnes Oaks had of attempting to tie the game.
“We had to try and stay positive and try to keep fighting but we just came up short tonight,” Bettencourt said.
Although this season for Cosumnes Oaks can be looked at as a positive one with eight wins, Bettencourt, his staff and his players will leave themselves thinking what could have been if they were able to execute better in key games. The Wolfpack came up just short against Davis with a chance of winning the Delta League and with a loss to Elk Grove, just short of a section championship berth.
“This season was not good enough but it was a great ride and we are building a family here,” Bettencourt said.
“This community and school accepted me and my staff with open arms and we will try to get better and build on this season and what our senior class is leaving behind and the kids we will have for next season.”
Cosumnes Oaks finishes their season with an 8-4 record.
Elk Grove advances to next Friday’s section championship game at Sacramento City College hoping to continue to build on the success of this playoff run.
“We are just excited to be in a championship game,” Heffernan said.
“The kids have worked their tails off and I’m so proud of these kids because they have bought in to the system and seeing them have success doing what we have asked them to do makes them buy in even more.”