Mark Vicente and the Sierra Timberwolves continued their late-game wizardry in last week’s heart-stopping 37-36 overtime win over visiting East Union.
Three of the their four wins so far required second-half comebacks, and a 49-7 thumping of Lodi is the only contest on their 2016 resume that wasn’t decided by three or less points.
“The one thing it shows is that we can finish,” Sierra coach Jeff Harbison said.
The trick for his injury-ravaged Timberwolves (1-1 Valley Oak League, 4-1 overall) this Friday is to keep it close enough against undefeated Manteca (2-0, 5-0) to have another shot at pulling another rabbit out of the hat. Manteca hosts this edition of the rivalry series and looks to build on its 15-6 all-time lead.
The Buffaloes stampeded through their first five foes, and last week’s 49-0 lambasting of Weston Ranch marked their third straight shutout. The offense — starring quarterback Gino Campiotti (62.5 completion percentage, 532 yards, seven touchdowns) and running back Kameron Beamon (549 yards, nine TDs) — has found its stride in the passing game, making them even tougher to stop.
The key for Sierra is weathering the storm in the early going. Manteca has outscored opponents 178-7 in the first half.
“We’re playing good football in the fourth quarter, but we need to play four quarters,” Harbison said. “We need to come out from the get-go and get after it.
“They have size and they have speed on both sides of the scrimmage. It’s definitely a challenge this week.”
It would be more challenging for Sierra if it’s without some of its key players. Running back/safety/kicker Marcos Castillo (knee), offensive guard/linebacker Nashon Tamiano (foot) and running back/linebacker Seuseu Alofaituli — all third-year starters — left the East Union game with injuries. Back-up running back Brandon Arreola (ankle) was also sidelined.
Only Alofaituli returned, and he helped Sierra climb back from a two-score deficit by scoring three touchdowns in the fourth quarter and overtime.
“It’s up in the air and we’re hoping for positives,” Harbison said of their availability for Friday’s game. “It’s been a spirited, good week of practice, and the kids are looking forward to Friday night.”
Weston Ranch (0-2, 3-2) at East Union (1-1, 4-1)
The other big game in town pits two teams recovering from tough losses in homecoming games for their intra-district opponents.
East Union surrendered a late two-score lead and lost to Sierra 37-36 in overtime, while the Cougars were clobbered 49-0 by Manteca. The Lancers have lost 13 straight to Sierra and has a chance to end a five-year skid against Weston Ranch, which boasts a 10-2 all-time series lead.
The good news for Weston Ranch is the top two teams in league are in the rear-view mirror. That doesn’t mean anything will come easily moving forward, starting with a hungry Lancers team that also yearns to join the upper echelon. East Union is just two wins away from securing at least an at-large postseason berth — the top three placers in the VOL get automatic bids.
Oakdale (2-0, 4-1) at
Lathrop (0-2, 1-4)
The pressure is on for the Spartans, who will likely need to win out to make a second straight postseason appearance.
And it doesn’t get any easier following Friday’s 54-0 loss at Central Catholic. The always-tough Mustangs from Oakdale have never lost to Lathrop and are rolling after dropping their season opener at Sonora, 27-13. They’ve since strung together two huge road wins at East Bay power Campolindo and Sierra, and last week they celebrated homecoming in a thorough 40-14 rout of Kimball, which trailed 40-0 and had just 24 yards of offense at halftime.
Mountain House (1-4) at Ripon (2-3)
Ripon is coming off a much-deserved break after a brutal pre-league schedule that includes losses to Sierra, Sonora and Sutter — three powerhouses with a combined 15-1 record.
The TVL season kicks off on homecoming week against the new kids on the block. Second-year Mountain House, which went 0-10 last season, seeks its first win in the competitive TVL. Ripon mauled the Mustangs 57-0 in their first-ever meeting.
Ripon Christian (1-1, 2-3) at Denair (1-1, 3-2)
The Knights got their offense in gear in a 30-13 win over Waterford, scoring almost as many points as they did through the first four weeks (42).
While the offense looks to continue to build momentum, the defense has remained solid. Ripon Christian gets tested by a Denair team that had productive outings in a 73-6 thrashing of Delta and last week’s 50-0 blowout of Le Grand.