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SIERRA EDGES BENICIA TO ADVANCE

Daniels’ record-setting performance highlights victory

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SIERRA EDGES BENICIA TO ADVANCE

Sierra High running back Jarrod Daniels squirts through a hole opened up by the line in the first half of the Timberwolves' Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoff game against visiting Benicia. D...

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin


POSTED November 28, 2009 2:14 a.m.
On the last big play of a game full of them, Jarrod Daniels made a statement while sealing Sierra High’s thrilling 40-39 victory over No. 6 Benicia Friday at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium.

“It’s not about me,” he said after the win that advances the third-seeded Timberwolves (11-1) to the semifinal round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs.

Daniels’ 25-yard run ended with open field in front of him and his fifth touchdown of the contest in sight, but he slid on the 15-yard line with a the last line of defense already beat.

Quarterback Adrian Valencia, who was sensational in his emergency back-up role, kneeled it on the next play and the celebration was on.

Daniels finished with 288 yards and four first-half scores (three from 1-yard out, the other from 71) on 26 carries, unofficially breaking his own single-game rushing record of 278 set in a 49-20 win over Central Valley on Oct. 16.

Daniels also broke Daniel Teicheira’s single-season rushing record of 1,536 yards set in 2001 with an unofficial mark of 1,669.

“I don’t really care about all the yards and all the touchdowns I scored in a game like this, you just have to do the right thing,” Daniels said. “I was happy to do it, and we got the win.”

Sierra coach Jeff Harbison instructed his star running back to kneel it if he had a chance to score on the play. With only a one-point lead, he didn’t want to give Benicia’s prolific passing attack another shot.

“He did the selfless thing, and I think that is the best example of this team right there,” Harbison said. “It’s not about ‘me,’ it’s about ‘we,’ and Jarrod showed it on the last play of the game.”

While Daniels certainly had his share of big plays on both sides of the ball, including an interception at Sierra’s own 38 with 1:18 left in the game, others had their shot to bask in the spotlight.

Benicia (9-3) never led but threatened to do so after scoring the game’s final touchdown with 3:53 remaining when QB Andrew McNeece (17-of-37 passing, 297 yards, two TDs, one rushing) hooked up with Fernando Murdock for a 14-yard strike.

The Panthers opted to go for the win with a two-point conversion attempt, but defensive back Stephen Thayer stopped Austin Carr’s reverse run at the 2-yard line.

Reserve tailback Aaron Manuta rushed in Sierra’s only second-half score with a 22-yard run with 7:48 left in the third. Sierra led 34-25 at halftime.

“They came through when we needed to,” Harbison said of his defense. “We made some adjustments and ad-libbed a little bit in the second half when we weren’t stopping their run. In the second half, we were a different defensive team.”

Sierra could have ended the game on its next drive, but Valencia mishandled a bad snap on the T’Wolves’ third play to keep the Panthers in it. Benicia lineman Nate Regalado recovered the loose ball on the Sierra 37.

McNeece and the Panthers went in for the kill on the next play, but his pass to Cory Fisher, who was knocked out of bounds at the 2, was negated by an illegal-receiver-downfield penalty.

Five plays later, Sierra forced McNeece out of the pocket and threw it toward the sideline for a short gain, and Daniels stepped in front of Carr, the intended receiver, to post the Timberwolves’ third pick. Standout cornerback Anthony Hall intercepted the other two.

“I got beat a few times in the end zone, so I knew I had to make up for it and make the big play for the team,” said Daniels, who was moved to cornerback from strong safety for the game.

Valencia had a monster performance despite completing just one of seven passes — two of which were dropped on what could have been large gains, and another was intercepted. Valencia did his damage from the ground, rushing 20 times for 218 yards and a score.

Starting QB Jonathan Davis left the game with 6:15 to go in the first quarter following his own 24-yard scamper. He reaggravated a right ankle sprain that has hobbled him all year.

“I was hoping Jonathan would get up, because we needed him for this game,” Valencia said. “But once (offensive coordinator Jeff) Abrew called my name, I was ready.”

Sierra will head to Sacramento to face No. 2 Del Campo (11-1) next week. Del Campo defeated No. 7 Rio Linda, 42-14. No. 1 Inderkum (12-0) and No. 5 Oakdale (11-1) meet on the other side of the bracket.
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