Anthony Cota is a physical runner who starred in a league that prides itself in physical play.
Inevitably, the bumps and bruises came, and Sierra’s 6-foot-1, 200-pound tailback would hobble off the field only to return just plays later.
He couldn’t afford to miss any more time.
The Bulletin’s 2012 All-Area Football MVP overcame an arm injury that sidelined him for half his junior season and put together the finest single-season effort by a Sierra back.
“I knew this year I couldn’t come off the field,” he said. “Breaking my arm my junior year when you are mainly getting recruited was a big setback, so I knew that I had to play real good to get the looks I needed for college.”
Cota was at the center of Sierra’s second-best season ever that ended in a runner-up finish in the Valley Oak League and 10-2 overall record. He was voted All-VOL Offensive Player of the Year and earned honorable mention for the All-Sac-Joaquin Section team.
He shattered single-game, single-season and career rushing records at Sierra, recording 1,966 yards and 38 touchdowns during his outstanding senior campaign. He also had 259 yards and three touchdowns receiving.
Cota broke the single-game rushing mark on back-to-back weeks, first burning Kimball for 300 yards and six touchdowns (his 7 TDs in a nonleague win over Grace Davis is the school record) in a 58-45 shootout, then blowing up for 333 more yards and four scores in a 47-42 win over Sonora.
“It’s real tiring, but when you come out with the win it’s worth it,” said Cota, who also played some defense at strong safety.
His favorite memory, though, is a Week-6 victory at Manteca High, where Cota was a star in the making on the freshman football squad. He transferred before his sophomore year when he debuted at varsity level for Sierra, but it wasn’t until the Oct. 5 showdown that he got to face his old buddies.
“Beating Manteca — that was definitely my favorite game,” Cota said. “I have a lot of friends there who said they were going to beat us, and I said they wouldn’t. Even the guys from Manteca I work out with, we’d argue back and forth all year until we played the game.”
Sierra’s workhorse galloped his way to 228 yards and five TDs on 22 carries.
“No one really talked any mess during the game and everyone showed love after the game, so it was cool,” he said. “Plus, we won so it made it even better.”
The season ended bitterly for Cota and the Timberwolves. Their penchant for coming out on top of high-scoring affairs escaped them in their SJS Division III quarterfinal with visiting Inderkum of Sacramento. Costly turnovers would doom Sierra as the Tigers prevailed, 69-47.
“I’m still not over it,” said Cota, who was held to 90 yards and two TDs on 19 carries but threw for two scores. “I had two big fumbles during that game; it could have been totally different. I just gotta work on (carrying the ball) high and tight.”
Cota won’t be remembered for one bad game or one bad injury. He is the new standard setter at a school that has produced great running backs in its short existence. All told, he wrapped up his three-year career with 3,543 yards and 69 touchdowns (62 rushing).
“(The records are) big to me and overall it was a great season, I just wish it didn’t end like that,” Cota said. “
Perhaps he will never forget the bad experiences. That may not be such a bad thing.