Opponents meet their Graves

No one has been able to slow down Whitney’s star senior
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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The element of surprise isn’t a big part of Zack Graves’ success. Every Friday night, everyone in the stadium knows Whitney High’s No. 32 is going to get the football, time and time again. It hasn’t seemed to matter in 2008. Placer High will take on Graves and the Wildcats in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV title game Friday night in Folsom. The Hillmen don’t need a reminder of Graves’ prowess. They saw plenty of him on Nov. 14, when he rushed for 215 yards on 35 carries in Whitney’s 34-12 win at Le Febvre Stadium. Graves is fifth in the state in rushing with 2,481 yards, an average of 207 per game, according to His 41 total touchdowns are the sixth-most in the state. His lowest yardage total all season was 143 — on just 10 carries — against Idaho Falls in the Wildcats’ season-opening romp. Just fewer than 50 percent of Whitney’s offensive plays go to Graves. He often lines up at quarterback in the shotgun and takes off with a direct snap, which provides another dilemma — he’s thrown eight passes this season, including five touchdowns. “You obviously know there’s no other running back there, so you just try to limit his cutback lanes,” said Bear River coach Terry Logue, whose Bruins limited Graves to his lowest yards per rush average this season (5.38) in a 35-14 loss on Oct. 17. “But then you’ve got to pick your poison. He throws that sweep pass and their quarterback throws it well too.” Whitney’s offensive line is the unsung hero of the Wildcats’ 12-0 season. Standout Austin Wentworth graduated last spring, but Whitney’s offensive front came back lean and mean. “They aren’t that big, but being athletic is always better than being big,” Whitney coach Mike Gimenez said. “They’re good size and they’re able to move. Those guys have worked together a lot and they get special treatment at our school. They’re all just one-way players.” Graves also plays offense exclusively. The 5-9, 163 pound senior is quick — he runs the 40-yard dash, “in 4.5 or 4.6” according to Gimenez. Graves can take a pounding – he’s carried the ball more than 30 times on four occasions this season. He’s also clutch, coming up with huge second-half performances as the Wildcats held off Bear River and Placer after tight first halves in both games. “To be a great running back, you have to have great balance and great vision and he has both of those,” Gimenez said. “I think that’s what separates him from most high school backs.” Logue has seen some stellar tailbacks at Bear River. His son Matt Logue was a bruiser back in 2001 and 2005 graduate Kevin Grimes scored 39 touchdowns using his speed and strength. Graves is a tough combination of both. “He’s very fast, very shifty, he reads blocks well and he keeps his feet moving very well,” Logue said. “If he’s in a pile, he can get out of there and especially on turf, he just really can cut on a dime.” Colleges have taken notice. Gimenez said several Big Sky Conference and Big West Conference schools have shown interest in Graves. The good news for Placer fans? The Hillmen are coming off perhaps their finest defensive performance of the season. Placer limited Dixon to just 59 yards on 33 rushing attempts in its 24-21 win in the semifinals last week.