ESCALON — Being on the losing end of a 48-14 drubbing at the hands of Escalon at Engel Field on Friday night shouldn’t have given Sierra a whole lot to celebrate.
But after nearly three-quarters of a school year where a football season seemed like a hope at best, Sierra managed to put together five consecutive games to salvage the COVID-19-shortened season and serve a dual purpose — giving seniors the chance to play their final year of eligibility while giving younger players the chance to get some exposure at the varsity level.
While a 1-4 finish wasn’t exactly what Arizona Christian-bound senior Christian Threadgill had in mind at the end of last season, it was certainly better than the alternative.
Threadgill — who hauled in a 19-yard touchdown catch and managed to bat and intercept a pass on defense — said that after watching other schools struggle to put together even consecutive games because of COVID-19 outbreaks, getting five games in under the before graduation and ultimately leaving Sierra High School was a victory in and of itself.
“I know many other schools that haven’t had the chance to play even one game, or only one game, and so getting the chance to play five games and knowing that I’m giving my all not only for myself, but my teammates is all that I can ask for,” Threadgill said. “This is definitely something that I’m going to remember forever, something that I’m going to cherish, and I know that I’m going to be holding these relationships for a very long time.
“This is a team that I can really call a family and being able to carry those relationships is something that I can take away from this.”
This season finale matched reigning Sac-Joaquin Section champions, with Sierra winning the Division IV title in the fall of 2019 while Escalon took the D-VI crown. Escalon went on to win the CIF State Division IV-A Bowl.
Playing without Kimoni Stanley (ankle) — the program's all-time leading rusher — for a second straight week, Sierra managed to hold the scrappy Cougars scoreless in the game’s first quarter but simply couldn’t contain Escalon's multiple threats. The Timberwolves gave up five touchdowns before halftime that all but made victory for Sierra next to impossible.
Led by senior workhorse Luke Anderson, who finished with 206 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries, Escalon’s offense was unstoppable once it got going.
Senior quarterback Ty Harris finished the game 8-of-12 passing for Escalon with 155 yards and two touchdowns, while sophomore Matthew Baptista added an additional 152 yards and two touchdowns on only nine carries.
Sierra head coach Chris Johnson said the silver lining — even in a game where the Timberwolves failed to gain traction — was the fact that seniors like Threadgill got the chance to shine once more on Friday nights while the younger players got the experience at the varsity level heading into what may be the shortest high school football offseason of all time.
“At the end of the day, the victories and the joy of winning and the pain of losing — that all fades away,” Johnson said. “To be able to come out here and get a few games in together — that’s all that really matters when it’s all said and done.
“We knew coming in that we had a lot of young guys and a lot of inexperienced guys, and this was going to be an experience for our seniors going out. This was like training for the young guys coming in — a lot of guys that will be back got a lot of reps and now they know a little bit about varsity football and hopefully it can springboard them into the summer and into next fall.”
Sierra 0 0 14 0 — 14
Escalon 0 35 6 7 — 48
E — Logan Anderson 4 run (Brayan Barrientos kick), 11:18.
E — Matthew Baptista 36 run (Barrientos kick), 7:26.
E — Luke Anderson 20 run (Barrientos kick), 6:41.
E — Logan Anderson 5 pass from Ty Harris (Barrientos kick), 3:35.
E — Owen Nash 50 pass from Harris (Barrientos kick), 2:35.
S —Christian Threadgill 19 pass from Ryan Borgeson (Jordan Shinn kick), 6:23.
E — Baptista 15 run (Barrientos kick failed), 4:34.
S — Borgeson 27 run (Shinn kick), 1:58.
E — Luke Anderson 11 run (Barrientos kick), 8:53.