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WHAT A RUSH

Paule ties record with 7 rushing TDs; Sierra routs Ripon

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WHAT A RUSH

Sierra junior running back Mark Paule Jr. (20) waits for a hole to open up during a 54-7 victory over Ripon at Stouffer Field. Paule owned the night, tying a program record with seven rushing touch...

Photo by SEAN KAHLER/


POSTED August 30, 2014 12:57 a.m.

RIPON – For months, Sierra head coach Jeff Harbison and offensive coordinator Jeff Abrew have been inside the laboratory, retooling one of the area’s most explosive offenses.

They stripped the wings off the “Air Raid” attack that put up eye-popping numbers in 2013 and fitted it instead with all-terrain tires – the meaty, durable kind that can run over and through any obstacle.

On Friday night, with a capacity crowd hugging the perimeter fence at Ripon High’s Stouffer Field, Harbison and Abrew pulled back the sheet, unveiling the 2014 model.

“Unleashed” would be a more apt term.

Junior running back Mark Paule Jr. and the Timberwolves ran roughshod on a much-smaller, much-slower Indian defense.

Paule finished with nearly 200 yards in his varsity debut and tied a program record set by Anthony Cota in 2012 with seven rushing touchdowns.

“These kids have worked hard all summer long,” said Harbison, whose team now owns a 6-3 advantage in the all-time series with Ripon. “Three days a week, three hours a day during the summer. Lifting. Working on Xs and Os. We did a lot. Went to camp and had a very good showing. All that hard work paid off tonight.”

Cota’s record appeared to be safe as Sierra morphed into a pass-first offense under strong-armed quarterback Jake Pruitt and all but abandoned the run in 2013.

However, Harbison and his staff showed their genius. Blessed with a massive offensive line, anchored by Bulletin Preseason All-Area selection Joshua Fala, the Timberwolves have recreated themselves as a balanced attack, capable, if they choose, of running a defense over.

On Friday, they attacked from all corners. First-year quarterback Devin Nunez was 12 of 16 for 157 yards with one incompletion a spike to stop the clock.

Wide receiver Hunter Johnson had eight catches for 114 yards and was tripped up at the 2-yard line following a 53-yard reception.

And then there was Paule, the main attraction.

He scored six times in the first half, including a spirit-breaking, 70-yard gallop on fourth-and-1 with 4:46 left in the second quarter.

Ripon had pulled within 20-7 just moments earlier on Ryan Fugit’s 88-yard kickoff return, giving the home side reason to cheer.

The good vibes wouldn’t last long. Paule would tack on two more scores inside the final 2:22, including a 1-yard plunge as the halftime buzzer sounded.

It wasn’t until he got around his teammates at halftime that he realized he was having a special night. The silence, he said, was deafening.

“Everybody was trying to keep it secret,” he said. “My friends finally came over and told me, ‘Hey man, two more touchdowns and you’ll beat the record.’ I didn’t think too much about it. I just continued to play.”

Paule tied the record with a 20-yard burst in the third quarter, despite cramps that limited him to just one carry in the second half.

He lined up in the Wildcat on fourth-and-1, spied an opening on the right side and didn’t downshift until he was in the back of the end zone.

“We’ve been taught to go slow to hole and then go fast through it. It lets the line develop,” Paule said. “Once I find that opening, I just burst through. You have to hit it hard and get right through it. Whatever happens, you got to get to that second level.”

He camped out there.

Paule finished with 198 yards on 22 carries. Sierra rushed for nearly 300 yards as a team and outgained Ripon 323-3 in the first half alone.

“Mark has great vision and we saw that at camp this year. We saw that when he played with the sophomore team last year,” Harbison said. “But if credit is going to go anywhere it has to go to the big guys up front. They have to push those other guys around. They have to make the holes. They did a terrific job of doing that tonight.

“That coupled with Mark’s speed and vision … we had a very productive night running the ball.”

The defense produced, too.

Marcos Castillo returned an interception 48 yards for the only non-Paule touchdown, David Saenz recovered a fumble and Andrew Guevara sacked Nick Price twice.

Sierra (1-0) welcomes Central Valley next week, while Ripon (0-1) continues its thorny schedule against Patterson and quaterback Damien Paulo.

“The challenge is to keep it up and work hard as a team,” Paule said. “We got to take it week by week, yard by yard, and do it together.”

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