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Sierra claims state title in Chowchilla
Sierra High quarterback Mark Vincente (12) pulls down the high snap late in the second half as the Timberwolves defeated Chowchilla for the state championship. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

CHOWCHILLA – Sierra’s dynamic tandem of Mark Vicente and Mark Paule Jr. teamed up to lead a heart-stopping 88-yard, 11-play drive in the closing minutes of the California Interscholastic Federation Division IV-A championship game Saturday against host Chowchilla.

The march was capped by a 9-yard pass play from Vicente to Paule Jr. on a halfback delay across the middle for the go-ahead and eventual winning score with 58 seconds remaining in an historic 20-15 win for Sierra, giving the Timberwolves the first state football championship in Manteca history.

“The credit has to go to Mark Vicente,” Sierra coach Jeff Harbison said. “The kid is resilient. He doesn’t know quit and he didn’t quit tonight. He kept playing and he is a playmaker. He made things happen.”

The Timberwolves (10-5) never trailed until there was 2:28 left in the game when the Alex Gutierrez ran in a two-point conversion to give the Redskins (12-3) the lead at 15-14, causing the Chowchilla stands to erupt in a sea of red. The Redskin fans took it up several notches on the kickoff when Paule Jr. slipped and was downed on the 18-yard line.

The drive did not start off well for the Timberwolves. After three incomplete passes and facing fourth and 10, Vicente found Paule for a 26-yard completion and a first down. With third and 10 from the Sierra 44, Jimmy Galindo pulled in a 26-yard pass from Vicente to put the ball on the Chowchilla 30 with 1:31 remaining. 

On the next play Vicente scampered 21 yards to the 9. He under threw a wide-open Paule Jr. on first down, but the Timberwolves went back to the well one more time and this time Paule Jr. pulled in the touchdown toss, transferring pandemonium from the red side of the field to the blue side with 58 seconds remaining.

“I knew that I had to stay composed and not get too panicky when the pressure came, staying in the pocket and making the right reads,” Vicente said. “On the touchdown, coach wanted all the receivers to go out and have Mark go up the middle and set up right at the goal line. It worked – it was wide open. We ran that play twice in a row.”

Paule Jr. (14 carries, 62 yards; four receptions, 61 yards, touchdown) was not sure if he was in the end zone when he caught the scoring throw – but he knew his team had time to get the job done.

“We had time to score – we had to get down the field and score,” Paule Jr. said. “I don’t know what was going through my head on that touchdown pass. I didn’t know if I was in the end zone or not, but we did it.”


Teicheria brings down

Chowchilla QB to end game

Fifty-eight seconds is a long time, particularly with a friendly clock keeper. The kickoff, which should have ran at least 10 seconds off the clock, only used up four seconds. Just two seconds elapsed on the next play and only one second on a play later in the drive, but Scott Teicheira saw to it that all the friendly clock keeping in the world wouldn’t steal the win from Sierra. On fourth down from his own 36, Teicheira found his way into the Redskins backfield and forced the scrambling Chowchilla quarterback to stumble, ending the game.

“I was trying to keep him inside,” Teicheira said. “I didn’t want to let him outside.

“And when he fell I was so happy because the game was over. It was an amazing feeling.” 

The game started as if the Timberwolves were going to run away with it. Sierra won the toss and deferred to the second half, kicking off to start the game. Following a first down pass on the game’s first play, the Redskins then went three and out. Vicente (14 of 24 passing, 152 yards, two touchdowns, interception; 15 carries, 88 yards, one touchdown) hit Galindo on an 11-yard pass and on the next play  scampered 65 yards up the sideline for a 7-0 lead. 

“The first touchdown was designed for a screen pass to Daniel Wyatt,” Vicente said. “But it wasn’t open so I kept running and went down the sideline and I scored.”

Andrew Guevara kept momentum with the Timberwolves, recovering a fumble deep in Chowchilla territory on the ensuing drive. The Redskins’ Bryan Woolsey ended that Sierra drive, making a highlight-reel interception at his own 1.

“Once he got it he dropped it and I just landed on him,” Guevara said of the fumble recovery.

“The game was up and down, up and down – it was scary. We managed to come through.”

Chowchilla tied the game late in the first half on a 3-yard run by Danny Chavez. With 8:48 left in the third period, Vicente connected with Daniel Wyatt on a fourth-down, 33-yard pass for a 14-7 lead. 


Offensive line

helps key victory

“The offensive line was great,” Vicente said. “They have been good this whole playoff run and I have been thankful for that. If it wasn’t for them, we would not have the Ws or be here right now.”

There were some big defensive plays along the way. Geo Juarez tipped a pass into the waiting hands of Paule Jr. in the second quarter, killing a potential Chowchilla scoring opportunity

Late in the third quarter, Josh Lee forced Indians quarterback Ryan Selby into the arms of Enrique Jasso on fourth down, ending another Chowchilla drive.

“It was a team effort,” Jasso said. “I couldn’t of done it without him (Lee) steering him to me. 

“We all have jobs on our defense and that is what got us the victory. We all did what we were supposed to do and when it really mattered and come down to it, we came up big.”

A former all-league soccer player, this was Lee’s first year of football.

“At the beginning of the season nobody really had faith in me,” Lee said. “I wasn’t coordinated like everyone else. I used that as motivation to keep going. Coach Silva and Coach Panigada they kept on me because they knew I had potential even though didn’t think I could cut it. But I did.”