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Sierra-Weston Ranch rivalry game has playoff implications

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POSTED November 3, 2011 12:50 a.m.

Every other year the Sierra-Weston Ranch football rivalry game has meant something for one team or the other.

In 2005, Weston Ranch blew out the Timberwolves 48-0 to secure a three-way share of the Valley Oak League championship in just its second year as a varsity team.

In 2007, Weston Ranch was favored to win and clinch a Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berth but was thwarted at home by Sierra, 45-28.

And two years later, Sierra captured a co-championship, the first in school history, with a 35-14 win.

Now in 2011, this game finally means something for both squads.

The winner at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium this Friday has a shot to extend its season.

“Number 1, they’re playing for pride,” said Sierra coach Jeff Harbison, who has guided the T’Wolves to three straight section playoff appearances. “We don’t want to lose to Weston Ranch, but there is also the chance of Sierra making the playoffs. The kids know that and they’re practicing like we’re preparing for a playoff game.”

The Manteca Unified foes share the same record — 3-3 in league, 4-5 overall — and are on the cusp of cracking the top 64 of the section’s Division I-IV postseason qualifiers.  This is essentially being treated like an out-bracket game in Division III.

The Cougars are playing their best ball at this point, winning three out of their last four. They were competitive for a half with undefeated Oakdale in their Week-8 contest before falling, 51-14.

Weston Ranch has had top teams on the ropes all season, including losses to Calaveras (27-15), Sonora (34-29) and Manteca (48-14). In the Manteca game, Weston Ranch had the ball with a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter before penalties and mistakes did them in.

With the likes of Tremain Buntan and Donnell Sims in the backfield and receivers Oshari Dunn, Alex Esan and Kenny Williams, Weston Ranch James Simerly is surrounded by a wealth of go-to playmakers.

“They spread the ball out well and get the ball out to their key players who are great athletes,” Harbison said. “They put defenses in vulnerable positions.”

Sierra has had its struggles getting over the hump against top teams, as well, and injuries haven’t helped. The defense is decimated by injuries, and the Timberwolves’ top offensive weapon, RB Anthony Cota, has been out since breaking a bone in a forearm in Week 4. Cota hopes to have the cast removed this week with a slight possibility of him returning to action Friday.

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound junior would provide a boost to Sierra’s spread offense, which has managed to produce without him with quarterback Anthony Perea (1,682 yards, 12 TDs; 313 yards rushing, seven TDs), RB Jayson Manuta (335 yards, seven TDs) and wide outs Zach Penirian (809 yards, seven TDs) and Jordan Lewis (572 yards, four TDs).

In other Week 10 action:

East Union at Manteca

Smarting from a humbling 49-14 loss at Oakdale last week, Manteca (5-1, 8-1) will look to get back on track Friday in its final tune-up for the Division-III playoffs.

A win secures at least the No. 4 seed while avenging last season’s 10-7 upset loss at East Union. That defeat kept Manteca from going undefeated in the regular season while it had to share the VOL title with Oakdale.

East Union (1-5, 1-8) has dropped five straight.

Kimball at Lathrop

Nothing would be sweeter than a victory for Lathrop’s first-ever four-year senior class. The Spartans (0-6, 1-8) are in their second year in the VOL and have yet to win a conference game.

Their chances of winning increase if Kimball QB Zach Johnson misses a third consecutive game with an ankle injury. Either way, Lathrop is playing well of late, giving Manteca and Sierra fits the past two weeks.

Orestimba at Ripon

This Week-10 Trans-Valley League matchup was a winner-take-all affair last season with the final Division-IV berth at stake. Orestimba broke big plays with Ravonne and Ramone Pious leading a 40-21 win.

Ripon (3-2, 7-2) will have revenge in mind and has its eyes on a high playoff seed at Stouffer Field Friday. The Indians also aim to win eight games for the first time since 2003. They won eight games on the field that year but had to forfeit four non-league victories for using an ineligible player.

Orestimba (2-3, 5-4) can seal a postseason berth with a victory.

Gustine at Ripon Christian

Ripon Christian’s program is in its eighth year, and only once (2005) has it qualified for the SJS playoffs.

With only lowly Gustine (1-5, 1-8), standing in the way, the Knights (3-2, 5-4) stand a very good chance of ending that drought. They are on a roll since losing 27-7 at Mariposa in Week 5, winning four straight as key players returned from a variety of ailments.

Ripon Christian drubbed Delhi (35-7) and Waterford (34-7) in its last two games, which were expected to be well-contested. Gustine, meanwhile, is coming off a 71-0 loss to Le Grand.

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