Players and coaches reflect on 20 years of GBHS football

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Players and coaches reflect on 20 years of GBHS football

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  Ever since Granite Bay High School opened in 1996, football games have been bringing the community together on Friday nights.

  This year marks the 20th year the school has been open, and the 20th football season at GBHS. Over the course of the 20 years, many memories and accomplishments have been made.

  “My favorite memory was having the Emerald Brigade and drum line walk us onto the field for the State Championship game,” GBHS alumni Grant Caraway said, who was captain and quarterback for the 2012-2013 season. “The whole band traveled to Southern California just to get the team hyped up for the big game like they had been doing for us all season.”

  The football team has brought home 10 league championships, five section championships and one Division 1 State Championship.

  Coach Ernie Cooper led the 20 distinct teams to such success for 18 seasons.

  Cooper coached 17 straight seasons, from 1996-2012. Coach Skip Albano coached the 18th season, in 2013, before Cooper returned for the 19th season, in 2014. This year, the 20th season, Jeff Evans is coaching the varsity football team.

  “(Granite Bay) is a community,” Evans said. “It’s almost like a small town feel, even though we’re surrounded by a big city. The people grow up in this area, their families go to this school, and it … just seems to mean a little bit more to the guys because this is something they grew up around their entire lives.”

  Cooper, though not the head coach, still is deeply involved with the football program by serving as the strength, speed and agility coach, and doing whatever Evans needs him for.

  Cooper says that one of his fondest memories was creating something out of nearly nothing when the school first opened. In 1996, there were only freshmen and sophomores enrolled at the GBHS resulting in no varsity team the first year.

  “We went 3-7 with our first varsity team but it was made up of 35 juniors and 2 sophomores.” Cooper said. “Again, we got stronger in the offseason (and) got faster. Our first group of seniors went 8-2.”

  Cooper said that the dedication from those players was something extraordinary.

  “They got better every year, they were fun to be around, they were totally into it, and everything we asked them to do they wanted to do it because they wanted to be winners,” Cooper said.

  “The next group — the first group we had go from freshman … to seniors — went 13-0,” Cooper said. “They didn’t lose a game. We won the league title (and) section title. We were able to build a program from nothing, and not be very good, into (becoming) the best team in the area,” Cooper said.

  Though Cooper views those first four years as some of the best of the program’s, many players look to the 2012 State Championship as a key highlight of their time at GBHS.

  Alumni Luke Bussey, captain during the 2013-2014 season at GBHS and football player at San Diego State University, recalls fond memories from his time at GBHS.

  “There (were) so many awesome memories but I’d have to say my favorite was when we won the State Championship,” Bussey said. “The whole experience of traveling down to L.A. with the team and having our band and families there was awesome. Then winning at the last second was just an amazing accomplishment and we all saw how our hard work in the summer and offseason paid off.”

  As for the future, Chet Dickson, the only coach who’s coached the team all 20 years, looks forward to seeing similar work ethic and passion in players as he has years past.

  “We’ve been so successful (in the past),” Dickson said, “that it’s hard to think about things being different. A lot of (what we need to do in the future) is just maintaining this level of success in a variety of ways (and) getting … each new group of (players) to be as good as they can be.”

  Both current and former players attribute the success of the football program to the coaches and players.

  “I think that at (GBHS) almost all of the players want to reach their max potential,” Bussey said. “As a result, all the players are always competing against one another to become better players and this results in a better team overall. The players’ passion for the game and work ethic sets (the program) apart (from others).”

  Senior Ethan Milner, a current captain of the team, agrees with Bussey’s assessment.

  “I think that it’s great because the school really rallies around the football team and supports it, the coaching is great and all the players really buy into the program and work hard,” Milner said.

  Not only is it apparent that the players dedicate hours upon hours of practice to the game, but also that the coaches continue to provide players with nothing but excellent coaching and serve as exemplary role models.

  “As a player, I have a huge amount of respect for the amount of time (Coach Cooper) spent working with us on the field, in the weight room and in the film room to make sure that our team was prepared and confident going into every one of our games,” Caraway said. “Granite Bay’s success has a lot to do with Coach Cooper’s commitment to the football program.”

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