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Leader of the Pack

Flores is T’Wolves’ unexpected hero of historic 2008 season

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Leader of the Pack

Ryan Flores is the Bulletin's 2008 All-Area Football MVP.


POSTED December 29, 2008 12:53 a.m.
Sierra High offensive coordinator Jeff Abrew installed the spread offense in 2007.
With a quarterback like Mike Garcia and wide receivers Nigel Malone and Avery White in the arsenal, how could he resist?
But when that talented trio graduated, what were the Timberwolves to do?
The 2008 varsity team welcomed a junior class that went 8-0-2 at the sophomore level, where it was successful operating the more run-oriented wing-T, and the starting quarterback position was returning senior Ryan Flores’ to lose.
Ryan Flores, who was hardly tested.
Ryan Flores, all 5 feet, 10 inches and 165 pounds of him.
“I felt like I had some big shoes to fill,” said the Bulletin’s 2008 All-Area Football MVP. “With Mike being the all-time (single-season) passing leader at the school I had something to prove.
“At the beginning of the season it was a little nerve-wracking to know that the pressure was on my shoulders.”
It turns out his replacement has even bigger shoes to fill.
Flores is the school’s first quarterback to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in both passing and rushing. He completed 57 percent of his passes for 1,641 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also ran for 1,006 yards and six scores.
Flores led the Timberwolves to their most wins (nine in 12 games) in a single season, first Sac-Joaquin Section playoff appearance and first postseason victory (21-7 over Rio Linda) in the program’s 14th year of varsity play.
And the scrawny signal caller used more brain and heart than arm and legs to get them to that point.
“He was certainly a surprise for us this year,” head coach Jeff Harbison said. “He’s got that ‘it’ factor. We didn’t know of his ability to run until we got into camp.”
It was then that the coaching staff tweaked its uptempo, spread offense to cater to Flores’ untapped strengths.
The team’s trademark play was one that only Flores knew was coming.
Designed handoffs intended for fellow 1,000-yard rusher Jarrod Daniels would change on the fly, with Flores pulling the ball from his running back’s outstretched arms and re-routing the play for positive yardage.
“He had incredible vision,” Harbison said. “He had great instincts on when to pull the football and just made things happen for us. He also got the job done throwing the ball.
“He was, without question, the heart and soul of our offense.”
That was obvious in Sierra’s final game of the season in Rocklin, where eventual section Division IV champion Whitney handled the Timberwolves 51-28 under foggy conditions.
Flores struggled at the start, turning it over three times in the first quarter. One of those giveaways was a fumble on a sack returned 62 yards for a 14-0 Whitney lead.
But Flores and his Timberwolves showed fight throughout. They proved that even the stingiest of defenses couldn’t keep them from moving downfield seemingly at will, but those early mistakes were too much to overcome.
Flores ended up throwing for 215 yards and four picks on 18-of-40 passing, while rushing for 107 yards on 20 carries. Sierra outgained Whitney 399-360 on total yards from scrimmage.
“It hurt after the game and a little bit the next morning, but then I realized that we made it to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in school history,” he said. “To lose to the section a champion is not too bad.”
Despite the heartbreaking end to the unforgettable season, there was still a lot for Sierra to be proud of.
There was the 7-6 win over hated rival Manteca, which hadn’t lost to the Timberwolves since 2000.
There was the 38-14 homecoming victory against Sonora, which last lost to Sierra 10 years ago.
Even in defeat, namely its 31-21 loss to the last of the Valley Oak League’s three traditional powerhouses, Oakdale, did Sierra garner respect.
“It was beyond amazing,” Flores said of the season. “Being a part of history at the school is great.”
Flores wasn’t just a part of a part of school history.
He carried them there.
“Ryan’s one of those players that’s going to be hard to replace,” Harbison said.
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