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Sometimes just finishing season is victory enough
Jason Campbell

I saw something last Friday night that I have never seen at a high school football game – a running clock with only three minutes gone in the game. 

Yes, the Valley Oak League game between my alma mater, the Sierra Timberwolves, and the Weston Ranch Cougars was that ugly. 

And while I was happy to see Sierra cap off their season with a win and head into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs with a decent seed, I was also remarkably proud of Weston Ranch for finishing a season that it would have been easy to give up on. 

While it has always been known as a “tough” league, the VOL has become a powerhouse of sorts over the last few years with the addition of the Central Catholic Raiders. Oakdale remains a juggernaut, Manteca holds its place as a perennial power, and Sierra appears to be heading back to its former glory to make it a veritable gauntlet to get through. 

That means that it can be tough for the have-nots that have to play teams that will undoubtedly be going to playoffs, and when you’re talking about a school that can barely field a varsity side, it becomes even more daunting. 

Injuries mount. Morale drops. And before you know it, the season hangs in the balance. 

But for all of that adversity, Sal Reyes’ Cougars didn’t draw a single unsportsmanlike penalty all year – something that you typically find in abundance when teams don’t have a whole lot to play for. 

Even last week as they were surrendering dozens of points to a team that was trying specifically not to score, the Cougars showed poise that needs to be commended. 

And they aren’t the only team in the area that deserves a little bit of commendation for playing solely for the love of the game.

After a tumultuous offseason at Modesto Christian, the team that helps make the league one of the best small-school leagues in Northern California if not the State found itself with very few players to round out a roster. When I saw them play Sierra early in the year, I thought there was no way that team was going to finish out the year – especially when having to take on the likes of Escalon, Ripon, and Hilmar.

And they did have to forfeit one game this year against Hilmar when injuries left them unable to put a full team on the field. 

But despite the fact that they were unlikely to win on any single Friday night with the exception of one, the team still finished out the year. 

The fact that the Crusaders’ coach was unceremoniously fired after his extensive efforts at holding the program together was, in my opinion, offensive on the part of the school’s administration – even if they didn’t achieve the standard that most people have come to expect from a storied program, they still showed remarkable heart by not mailing it in. 

Not every team is going to go to the playoffs. That’s a given. But for schools like Weston Ranch, which has been to the playoffs, and Modesto Christian, which routinely challenges powerhouse conference schools for its league title, this year just finishing is good enough for my respect. 

Well done, coaches. It couldn’t have been easy, but you taught your players valuable lessons that I hope they carry with them for life. 

Pigskin Pickin’ 

The Valley Oak League season is over, and the playoffs are upon us. 

Unfortunately, three of the teams that we would be picking whether they win or lose are off this week with byes so we had to round out the roster with Sierra, the Bay Area sports teams, and a pair of college games.

It’s only fitting that the Timberwolves, who drew a seed that would typically garner them a first-round bye, end up the only 13-team bracket – meaning that they have to play the first week. 

While they might not have beaten the Big 3 in the VOL, their matchups do look favorable and could include a showdown with the Oakdale Mustangs for a Section Championship. 

But before I get ahead of myself, lets share what we think will happen this week:

Wohle (29-8) – The man who spent the last week in paradise was short and sweet when it came to picking his teams this week – sharing just what he thinks and the same tag line he’s used all season: “I want my linguica!”

Our fearless leader is taking Sierra, the Raiders, the Seahawks, Alabama, and his alma mater, Washington. 

Campbell (25-12) – Since there’s no chance that I’m going to catch Wohle this year, and it’s unlikely that I’ll fall any faster than Teicheira, has, I’m going to pick who I want to win this week rather than who I think will win this week. I’m taking my alma mater, Sierra, the 49ers, the Chargers, Oregon State and LSU. Hopefully this will push me at least a game ahead of Teicheira for the first time in weeks as there is no way he’s not picking his beloved Raiders.

Teicheira (25-12) – “I think we all expected last week’s drubbing of the Red School by the Mighty Buffs. I was excited to buy Sir Lancelot Wohle his linguica sandwich after months of muckraking me over the issue of my unpaid debt. However, he no showed at the MHS vs. EU game! Was it the overwhelming shame of openly picking against his school in the paper last week? Had this lowly maneuver not only shrunken his soul, but also his appetite?

Lancers Lead? Yes. In no-shows. 

Most importantly, I’d like to congratulate my nephew Nico Villanueva and his Soph Buffalo football teammates for completing a 10-0 season. The torch is passed, and I can finally end Wohle’s 30 years of misery where I bring up our sophomore year – the one in which we defeated his lowly lancer squad twice to go 10-0. He received a double helping of linguica that year, but unfortunately it tasted like crow. 

Go Buffs!”

Teicheira takes Sierra, the Raiders, the Seahawks, Oregon State and LSU. 

Condit (23-14) – Our cellar dweller is taking Sierra, the 49ers, the Raiders, Oregon State and LSU. 

Until next week!

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.