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Post-Cota era promising for young Timberwolves

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Post-Cota era promising for young Timberwolves

Sierra junior quarterback Jake Pruitt winds up for a deep pass as he is rushed by Inderkum standout Dedric Allen.

WAYNE THALLANDER/Special to the Bulletin


POSTED November 17, 2012 1:06 a.m.

Jake Pruitt could barely hold back the tears.

All of the hard work. All of the blood, sweat – and yes, tears – that went into the Sierra Timberwolves 2012 football season came to a screeching halt Friday night when they ran smack dab into an Inderkum team that they simply couldn’t contain.

And as the quarterback, Pruitt looked like he had been carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders for the full 48 minutes that both teams were on the field.

If not the 16-plus weeks that the team has officially been together.

But here’s where football can be such a cruel mistress.

That weight – a huge burden for a high school athlete to carry – wasn’t going anywhere.

Had Sierra come away victorious, it simply would have rolled over into the next game against a Vista Del Lago team that squeaked away with a win in their second round playoff game against 10th seeded El Camino.

So the stakes would have been higher. The pressure would have been even more immense.

And so the cycle goes, until you’re either turning in your gear on a Monday after school or hanging a blue banner from the rafters of your gymnasium.

Unfortunately, it’s the former in this case.

No story like this, however, is without a silver lining. It wouldn’t be complete without some sort of ace in the hole that changes the way the hand gets played. And this one is no different. But it involves more than one player, and in this case the more people that are involved the better off this story gets.

Sierra High’s football team is stacked with juniors. Including Pruitt.

It’s not a secret. All you have to do is run down their roster and see how many players are still going to be eligible to come back next season and play for a program that has firmly established itself as a force in the Sac-Joaquin Section. They’re no Cinderella anymore. They’re part of the committee that puts on the ball.

That makes them extremely dangerous. And that makes what they could become extremely intriguing.

“I think that it was a great experience for all of us to make it to the second round of the playoffs – to get to see this level of intensity,” Pruitt said. “Inderkum was just one (heck) of a team.”

Yes, everybody, there will be life after Anthony Cota.

To kick things off (no pun intended), four of the five starting offensive linemen – Adam Bettencourt, Aaron Thiel, Chuck Good and Isaiah Stevens – will be back next year. Tell me that won’t help Pruitt and the on-the-fly, no-huddle offense that coach Jeff Abrew oversees establish a steady rhythm.

You’ve got the linebacker and defensive back hybrid in Garrett DeVillanueva – who hauled in a touchdown pass Friday night – who will be back prowling the backfield. Linebacker Reid Maestas will be joining him.

And then there’s wide receiver Dakota Conners that will bring a sure pair of hands into the equation.

So while Friday’s loss will sting when those players roll out of bed this morning and realize that their hopes for being the first Sierra High football team ever to win a section title were dashed, that shining thread in the football heavens shouldn’t be that hard to see.

“I think that this was a tremendous opportunity for our juniors,” head coach Jeff Harbison said. “I think it was a great experience and we’ll be looking for great things out of them next year.”

Filling the big shoes of a player like Cota – arguably the best running back in the Valley Oak League – will be mighty difficult. Losing an all-around athlete like Guillermo Nunez is equally tough. Jordan Lewis, Justin DeHart and Tyler Yousif will definitely be missed.

But there’s nothing more exciting that potential.

And three hours after the end of the Timberwolves’ 2012 season, their preliminary 2013 roster is already chock-full of it.

Let’s hold off on the expectations, though.

The weight of the world is a mighty tough thing to carry through an entire offseason.

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