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Third-seeded Sierra returns to playoffs with title hopes

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POSTED November 19, 2009 2:15 a.m.
Sierra will venture into familiar territory Friday when the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs kick off but will wear an unfamiliar target on its back.

The Timberwolves (9-1) made their first-ever postseason appearance a year ago, finishing 1-1. Now they’re the No. 3-seeded team with a share of their first Valley Oak League championship.

Sierra hosts No. 14 Mira Loma (6-4), which is looking to make a splash after a 12-year playoff drought.

“If our players come out with full intensity like we have for Oakdale, for Manteca and for Granada this team can do wonders,” Sierra coach Jeff Harbison said. “They’ve come out complacent before in some of our other games, and we can’t do that this Friday.”

The Matadors of Sacramento are coming off a disappointing 23-0 loss to El Camino, which went into the regular-season finale winless in the competitive Capital Athletic League.

 Quarterback Alex Gomez-Coehlo orchestrates Mira Loma’s balanced attack and is as dangerous on the run as he is in the pocket. He has good receivers to throw to in 6-foot-4 Josiah Robinson and Kenna McCord. Desmond Smart (6-2, 185) is the workhorse out of Mira Loma’s backfield.

“They have some athletes, some height and speed at the receiver spots,” Harbison said. “They are pretty tough to defend.

“Their quarterback is very mobile. If he gets around the corner he’s very dangerous.”

Sierra has done well against the pass all year save for its 44-42 victory over Oakdale. Oakdale has relied on its three-prong rushing attack featuring bruiser Tim House and fleet-footed Devin Brooks and Blake Raham, but QB Robert Brooks completed 10 of 17 passes for 231 yards and three touchdowns.

Brooks did throw a key interception that was returned 95 yards for a touchdown by Sierra defensive back Anthony Hall. Hall moved to safety early in the season but was moved to cornerback in the second half of the Oakdale game.

“Anthony has done a stellar job since,” Harbison said. “Last week we out him Weston Ranch’s star (wide receiver Angell Mayfield) and Anthony shut him down.”

Sierra went into that Oakdale game dinged up with several key starters out, and several more left the game early because of injuries.

Harbison said the Timberwolves are as healthy as they’re going to be for the playoffs. The offensive line should get a boost with the return of center Tony Ollivier, who had been out since Week 3.

Defensive lineman Chris Membrano and cornerback Aaron Manuta are also back.

“We’re at that point now where it’s win or go home, so we’re going to play our best 22 players,” Harbison said.
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