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Granite Bay High School football coach Joe Cattolico, left, and running back Carter Jackson lead the Grizzlies to a 34-13 victory over Vacaville on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023, in Vacaville, California.

Granite Bay High School football coach Joe Cattolico, left, and running back Carter Jackson lead the Grizzlies to a 34-13 victory over Vacaville on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023, in Vacaville, California.

Specially for The Bee

Granite Bay High School junior Carter Jackson was widely considered one of the top runners in the Sac-Joaquin Section heading into 2023.

In his last two games, he has proven his believers right.

Jackson scored three touchdowns in the first quarter Friday to set the tone for the Grizzlies, who spoiled Vacaville’s homecoming with a 34-13 victory.

“The biggest thing that motivates me is what can I do more? How do I get better?” Jackson said after the game. “I don’t really look at the past and what I have achieved. I’m always looking for what I can do more.”

Jackson did enough against the Bulldogs on Friday, early and often. He raced down the sideline for a 60-yard score within the game’s opening minute and had no intention of slowing down. The Cal commit then showed some power, taking on Vacaville defenders for a 7-yard TD on the next Granite Bay drive.

After another Grizzlies touchdown, Jackson returned to his lightning speed for a 38-yard burst to give Granite Bay a 27-0 lead with just half a quarter to go.

In all, Jackson ran 17 times for 151 yards, carrying momentum off a 19-carry, 130-yard, three-TD performance in last week’s 51-14 win against Antelope.

But it was also the complementary pieces in the Granite Bay backfield that eased Jackson’s workload. Junior Jack Marek had 68 rushing yards on six carries while sophomore Isaiah Ene ran 13 times for 43 yards and a score.

“You don’t really know who’s going to get the ball,” Jackson said. “They’ve definitely helped me make big plays and we’re all kind of off each other and working off of each other, so it’s a really good chemistry.”

Granite Bay (3-2) forced four turnovers defensively, highlighted by an interception by sophomore Jason Hill Jr.

“We have a lot of young guys that have played against pretty good competition to start the year,” Granite Bay coach Joe Cattolico said. “Hopefully there are some things to build on there.”

Granite Bay’s roster is chock full of Cattolicos. Joe Cattolico, a longtime coaching whiz now in his third season with the Grizzlies, is flanked by his father, Butch, an iconic figure from his days on the sidelines at Los Gatos High School, where he coached 13 state title teams Central Coast Section lead. 264 career wins. Joe Cattolico is also approaching the 200-win mark with 188.

“He runs a very similar offense to what we ran at Los Gatos for years,” Butch Cattolico said of his son Joe. “He does a really good job with his own rotations. Having played quarterback, he knows what he likes and doesn’t like. But defensively, he’s in a class by himself.”

On the field are Joe Cattolico’s two sons, Joseph Jr., a junior wide receiver, and Dominic, a freshman quarterback recently brought up to help Granite Bay with the injury bug.

“The whole grandchild thing makes it even more special,” Butch Cattolico said. “It’s tough for them as sons of the coach. There’s a little more pressure, but Joe handles it really well. … I just enjoy watching them play.”

Make no mistake, there is no favorite with sons on the team. Joe Cattolico Sr. is positive when he has to be, but will also get on the business of his boys.

“From a parent’s perspective, it’s tough,” Joe Cattolico Sr. said. “You get mixed emotions about how you manage that father-son relationship relative to the player-coach relationship. I try to let other guys coach them and let their moms parent them at home. That’s how I throw it too not on.”

On Friday, Joseph Jr. caught a 42-yard touchdown pass from Lucas Gruia in the first quarter. And in QB relief, Dominic Cattolico took a knee in the victory formation for the Grizzlies.

Joe Cattolico Sr., “You do this for a long time coaching other people’s kids, but it’s cool to be out there with my own guys,” Joe Cattolico Sr. said. “It also has its challenges, of course – like everything in life – but I think, hopefully, in the long run you get good memories.”

Soccer is also a family business at Vacaville. Head coach Mike Papadopolous is the son-in-law of former Bulldog coaching icon Tom Zunino, after whom the Vacaville football stadium is named.

“It’s a constant reminder every day when I walk in and see his name on our stadium,” Papadopolous said. “I can hear his voice in the back of my head and the impact he had on the community. Hopefully he’s happy with what we’re trying to do.”

Friday night was an anniversary of sorts for Vacaville quarterback Brody Fortunati. It was a year ago this week against the same Granite Bay team that Fortunati tried to make up for a mistake. After throwing an interception early in the game, the junior QB tried to help on the tackle and dislocated his hip, ending his season.

Papadopolous said while the injury was difficult for Fortunati, his young quarterback was able to step back and see the bigger picture.

“He has invested the best in learning what we ask of him,” Papadopolous said. “It’s hard when you’re hurt. How do you manage it? But he’s a driven kid with laser-like future goals.”

Fortunati, who committed to play football at the Air Force Academy in June, completed 7 of 14 passes for 25 yards Friday as Vacaville (2-2) relied heavily on its running game. The backfield tandem of Cristian Diosdado, who had 16 carries for 68 yards, and Morgan Delago, who had 85 yards on 16 carries, accounted for Vacaville’s two touchdowns.

Vacaville will travel to El Cerrito next week before playing at Rodriguez on Sept. 29 in the Monticello Empire League.

Granite Bay has a bye next week before starting Sierra Foothill League play at home against longtime rival Del Oro.

This story was originally published September 15, 2023, 11:46 p.m.

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