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Linemen have helped Daniels set record marks

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POSTED December 3, 2009 2:19 a.m.
Jarrod Daniels accepts just partial credit for his record-breaking numbers.

Sierra High’s standout running back broke single-game and single-season rushing records during last Friday’s 40-39 victory over visiting Benicia in the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs.

Daniels eclipsed his own single-game rushing record by compiling 296 yards on 27 carries while punching in four first-half touchdowns. The performance also pushed his season total to 1,677 yards to set the new standard previously set by Daniel Teicheira (1,536) in 2001. His 31 touchdowns this year is also a program record.

While it’s his name that will grace the record books, Daniels insists that the accolades are shared with the unheralded linemen doing the dirty work in front of him.

“They should get a lot of credit for all of that,” Daniels said. “They work just as hard as I do, and without them I can’t do any of that stuff.”

Sierra as a whole has certainly reaped the benefits of solid play in the trenches during its best season in program history. The third-seeded Timberwolves are 11-1 going into their semifinal road game against No. 2 Del Campo, also 11-1, Friday.

The Timberwolves’ starting offensive linemen are, from left tackle to right: Alex Trujillo (6-foot-2, 217 pounds), John Perez (5-10, 228), Tony Ollivier (6-1, 244), Adam Bennett (6-0, 213) and Nick Baker (6-0, 211).

Levi Baldi (5-10, 215) also sees significant time at left guard, to give Perez, a two-way workhorse who calls the shots on defense at middle linebacker, a breather.

Sierra hasn’t skipped a beat despite the graduation losses of 6-3, 276-pound tackle and all-Valley Oak League first-team selection Jacob Faulkner and Robert Plunk (6-1, 225), a second-team honoree.

Trujillo and Ollivier, who started all 12 games at center last year, both earned honorable mention and bring experience to the table. Perez, a first-year varsity senior, adds leadership qualities.

The Timberwolves may lack the imposing presence provided by Faulkner a year ago, but head coach Jeff Harbison said the group makes up for it in other ways.

“This year’s linemen are pretty bright with a couple of good leaders in Alex Trujillo and John Perez,” Harbison said. “There is a lot of reading and communication that goes on before the snap between the linemen and fullback, and they all must know what the other is doing.”

Assistant coach Les Wheeler is responsible for getting the linemen prepared for each game. He calls himself “mainly a fundamentals guy,” crediting the cohesiveness of the players themselves and the game plan hammered out by the rest of the coaching staff for the team’s success.

“It’s a combination of good coaching and the coachability of the players,” Wheeler said. “We just have a good group of linemen, and the hard work they’ve put in day in and day out has helped Jarrod propel to that next level.”

One of the unsung heroes for Sierra this year is Jose Cortez. Ollivier went down with a back injury in non-league play and missed five weeks of action, and his backup followed him to the sideline with his own ailment.
Cortez was the sophomore team’s starting center last year and was one of a handful of players pulled up to the varsity for the playoffs, but he had been concentrating on linebacker early in the season.

Sierra may have lost significant size from Ollivier’s absence, but the 5-7 and 175-pound Cortez performed masterfully in his place. Cortez was in on some of Sierra’s biggest wins of the season, including a 44-42 victory over Oakdale in Week 9 that helped the team clinch its first-ever VOL title.

“He came in and just did a heck of a job for us,” Wheeler said. “I mean, he’s 170 pounds soaking wet, but he came in and just worked his tail off. He may have been outweighed, but we had guards come in for double teams.

“They really worked well together, because they wanted him to succeed — we all want each other to succeed.”
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