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YOLO COUNTY NEWS
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Devil boys bring the thunder, lightning: win CIF water polo title

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From page B1 | November 11, 2012 |

ROSEVILLE — The National Weather Service predicted a weekend storm for the region.

While Saturday’s sky was crystal blue with no rain, it was the Davis High boys water polo team that brought thunder and lightning.

In a leave-no-doubt 13-5 victory over Granite Bay at the Roseville Aquatic Complex, the Blue Devil’s fast-break style was augmented by close-in blasts as the locals had the crowd of almost 450 oohing and aahing en route to the school’s 14th Sac-Joaquin Section championship.

“Everybody’s goal going into pretty much every year is to win the section title,” DHS defender Jack Blattner told The Enterprise. “To win it, in my senior year — we haven’t won it since I was in junior high (2008) — it’s a huge deal. Huge.”

It was U.S. National Junior Team member Connor Stapleton who got this party started when the Devil’s power-play goal opened the scoring at 5:27. Moments later, Stapleton launched from 12 meters, whistling the ball past a static Tyler Kenney. The Grizzly goalie had been screened, but it wouldn’t have mattered — Stapleton’s rocket was a net-burner.

For good measure, Graham Fullerton bounced one off of Kenney and DHS — with nine first-period shots — had rudely introduced Granite Bay to a long afternoon.

“In the last couple of games, we came out a little bit sluggish,” Blattner said. “In this game, we started off great: a lot of energy; great intensity, starting scoring early …”

Davis didn’t rest.

Eight more second-quarter arrows meant six additional bulls-eyes before intermission. Two more goals from Fullerton, two from Bradley Nicholson and one each from Stapleton and Garrett Fisk made things 9-3 at the half.

If it wasn’t for Alek Denali’s two tallies (and a late power-play goal by Nathan Pinkney) Granite Bay would’ve been looking at the scoreboard through binoculars.

But these were the Sierra Foothill League champions. The Grizzlies had played the Blue Devils tough on Sept. 26 — losing only 13-8.

Remembering that, DHS knew there still was work to be done.

“We kinda had good matchups,” Stapleton said. “(Our coaches) got us super pumped up and got ourselves pumped up. We had a really, really solid mindset.”

Nicholson’s goal opened the third-period scoring. Granite Bay captain Jack Elinthorpe was doing his best to get his guys back in the fray, but his early second-half goal faded from memory as Davis continued its onslaught.

Tyler Ujifusa was brilliant directing local traffic as he swing the ball around the periphery — burning seconds valuable to the Grizzlies while finding open teammates. Ujifusa got a pass to Nicholson, who made it 11-4.

Conrad McCarthy worked the ball to Stapleton, who rose like a Polaris from the water and struck home from 10 meters out.

Early in the final period, Fullerton’s fourth goal matched Corey Consunji’s Grizzly score to end the scoring at 4:54. Conversely, action slowed to a crawl, too, as DHS coach Tracy Stapleton called for a clock-killing style and Granite Bay accepted its fate.

Fullerton, Stapleton and Nicholson each ended with four goals.

The game marked the end of a father-son, four-year run for Connor and dad Tracy at Davis High. The elder Stapleton was asked how emotional this game was for him:

“How high is Mt. Everest?” said the 25-year Devil coach, his dark glasses masking tears that were betrayed by his cracking voice. “This was pretty special … the title, Connor. I am pretty happy right now.”

Two hours later, the Stapletons had one more thing to celebrate when Connor’s younger sister Colby nailed the game-winning goal in the final seconds to give the Blue Devils a victory in the girls title game.

Notes: The tourney’s No. 1 seed, Davis finished the season 24-7 after taking another league title. Granite Bay (22-5) was the second seed. … In each of the past three seasons, the Devils were CIF runners-up. “(This win) is a combination of all four years,” Connor Stapleton said of winning with his dad in his senior season. “Coming here and losing the last years … this is kinda the cherry on the top” (of playing for his dad). Stapleton soon is off to Australia for the Youth World Championships and soon will make a decision on where he’ll attend college. Clearly there are many offers. … “It’s a great end to a long high-school (career),” attacker Derek Tully said afterward. Tully, along with Patrick Zhu, Stapleton and Blattner, is one of only four seniors on the Devil roster. “We had to run a lot of different defensive plays to shut down some of their main players,” Tully added. “We did that really well … and that’s why we came out on top.”

— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-747-8047.

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