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AND WE MEET AGAIN

Defending VOL Champions meet in league opener

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AND WE MEET AGAIN

Alex Nuanez and the rest of the Sierra High Timberwolves celebrate after forcing a turnover against Oakdale at The Corral on Oct. 6, 2009. The 44-42 stunner Sierra pulled off forced a two-way title...

Bulletin file photo/


POSTED September 23, 2010 2:47 a.m.
Over the past decade, there has been one constant amongst the elite teams in the Valley Oak League and that’s the fact that to become the champion, one usually has to beat the champion. In Friday’s VOL opener for Sierra and Oakdale highs, that hurdle will be cleared immediately by the winning squad.

Sierra (1-2), like Oakdale, is coming into the contest rested off of a bye-week. Both clubs took advantage of the opportunity to get their seasons started early with a week-zero contest, setting up the bye a week before opening league.

In their last contest the Timberwolves were outlasted by the Granada Matadors in a 56-42 offensive onslaught. Granada rolled up over 600 yards of total offense on the Timberwolves defense, but had no answer for Sierra quarterback Adrian Valencia, who threw for 227 yards and four TDs in the win.

Oakdale strolled into its bye-week after a 31-28 road-loss to Granite Bay. The Mustangs went into intermission with a 21-14 lead, but were outscored in the pivotal fourth quarter by the final difference.

Both clubs closed VOL play a season ago as co-VOL champions, finishing with a 6-1 mark with Oakdale’s blemish coming at the hands of the Timberwolves, and Sierra’s coming from a week four loss in Sonora.

Both clubs know the importance of getting off to a quality start in the VOL season, taking the importance of both club’s VOL opener to unprecedented heights.

“Every game in the VOL is big, but this one is a little extra special,” Sierra head coach Jeff Harbison said. “The last couple of years we’ve played Oakdale late in the season and it has meant a playoff berth, or possible VOL championship.

“This game is definitely going to be special.”

Oakdale (1-2) will try and rekindle its winning ways, dropping its final two preseason games after opening with a 56-20 win over Modesto Christian. Week two forced the Mustangs to try and stop one of the area’s top quarterbacks in Turlock High’s Kevin Kramer. Oakdale failed miserably in that task, surrendering 248 yards and five touchdowns to Kramer in a losing effort.

Valencia will have to be what Kramer was for the Bulldogs if Sierra plans on having a chance to get its VOL season under way with a win.

“Adrian has played solid for us all year long and we are definitely counting on what he brings to our team,” Harbison said of his senior quarterback. “Right now, our offense is flowing through Adrian, so needless to say his play will be an important role.”

The Mustangs are the last Sac-Joaquin Section Champion to come out of the VOL and have held a spot in the postseason for the past four seasons. Opening the league grind against a solid Sierra program is nothing that intimidates the Mustangs. The road to a championship is a long one, no matter what team is first on the list.

“We don’t make a big deal about the schedule,” Oakdale head coach Trent Merzon said. “It really just is what it is. Right now, we’re under .500; they are under .500. If you want to win the league title it starts with week one. This is a big football game, but it is no bigger than next week when we play Kimball.

“When it comes down to it, the ball is going to be in the air and we’re going to have to make plays.”

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