SAN RAMON -- East Bay Athletic League rivals California and San Ramon Valley put on quite a show Saturday night, as the host Grizzlies surged for a 31-24 victory in the North Coast Section Division I football quarterfinals.
The entertaining game showcased the usual suspects -- the Grizzlies' brawny runners Blake Bierwith and Simi Hingano and their robust offensive line, along with the Wolves' marquee trio of quarterback Matt Winaker, running back Marcus de la Pena and wideout J.J. Koski.
The No. 3-seeded Grizzlies (10-2) will travel to No. 2 Pittsburg in the semifinals on Saturday. Pittsburg topped California 35-33 on Sept. 6.
California also advanced to the semifinals last year before falling to James Logan.
The resilient Wolves have been guided by interim coach Aaron Becker, after former head coach Mark Kessler was fired one day before the playoffs began.
In the first round, the No. 6-seeded Wolves rallied to trounce San Leandro 42-24, and California beat Dougherty Valley 37-12.
"We went through a lot of adversity this season, but our team's one that bounces back from pretty much anything," said Wolves receiver J.J. Koski, who had a 36-yard touchdown reception with 3:00 left in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 31-24 before the Grizzlies ran out the clock.
Bierwith ran for 141 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries as the Grizzlies beat Wolves (7-5) for the second time this season. De la Pena had a huge final high school game with 171 yards rushing and two touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving.
The versatile Winaker was 23-for-29 passing for 188 yards, also kicking a 34-yard field goal and three extra points. California's C.J. Cornwell was the Grizzlies' change-up slot man with five catches for 43 yards and 21 yards rushing.
The Grizzlies' power game won the night.
With the game tied 17-17 at halftime, the Grizzlies marched 56 yards on nine plays for a touchdown on their first series of the second half, capped on a 1-yard Hingano run. The methodical drive was sandwiched between back-to-back defensive stops by the Grizzlies defense when they held the Wolves without a first down. The Grizzlies' offensive line, led by Tyler Whisenhunt and Dean Heinz, pounded the Wolves all night.
California, the EBAL champions, made it 31-17 on a 1-yard run by Zac Guardino with four seconds left in the third quarter. Then Guardino intercepted a scrambling Winaker in the end zone on the Wolves' next series, outwrestling the receiver for the ball and returning it 25 yards.
Guardino said the Wolves ran a double-dig pattern and he took the ball from the receiver's hands after he made the catch in the end zone.
NCS Playoffs Division I Quarterfinals California 31, San Ramon Valley 24
San Ramon 14 3 0 7-- 24
California 7 10 14 0-- 31
C -- Bierwith 2 run (Thompson-Meyers kick)
SRV -- de la Pena 5 run (Winaker kick)
SRV -- de la Pena 6 pass from Winaker (Winaker kick)
C -- Bierwith 8 run (Thompson-Meyers kick)
SRV -- Winaker 34 FG
C -- Thompson-Meyers 29 FG
C -- Hingano 1 run (Thompson-Meyers kick)
C -- Guardino 1 run (Thompson-Meyers kick)
SRV -- Koski 36 pass from Winaker (Winaker kick)
Rushing: SRV -- de la Pena 22-171, Winaker 3-4. Totals 25-175, C -- Bierwith 29-141, Hingano 11-64, Cornwell 6-21, Guardino 4-33, Lorenz 2-(-6). Totals 50-256. Passing: SRV -- Winaker 23-29-1 184. C -- Lorenz 7-9-0 85. Receiving: Receiving: SRV -- Koski 8-82, Alvira 4-36, Murphy 3-28, de la Pena 4-18, Nichols 2-15, Wilson 1-5, Winaker 1-0. Totals 23-184. C -- Cornwell 5-43, Snyder 2-42. Totals 7-85. Fumbles/lost: SRV -- 0/0, Cal -- 0/0. Records: San Ramon Valley 7-5, California 10-2.