Pacheco 6 7 3 0 — 16
Sierra 0 0 0 2 — 2
P — Amari Grace 60 run (kick missed), 0:11.7.
P — Jedidiah De la Torre 1 run (Pablo Eustaquio kick), 4:53.
P — Eustaquio 22 field goal, 6:38.
S — Safety, 10:55.
With his team battling through COVID-19 issues since the start of the preseason, Sierra head coach Chris Johnson has had to tinker with new lineups every week.
On Thursday, the Timberwolves fielded their largest squad of the season as reinforcements arrived from the recent termination of the JV team, but they were also missing two of their top linemen who are in quarantine.
“Every day has been a scramble,” Johnson said following his team’s 16-2 loss to Pacheco.
While there were certainly some positives to build off of, the outcome was still disappointing. Sierra (0-3) missed two golden opportunities to score and change the complexion of the game, ultimately wasting a gritty effort from the defense. The Timberwolves fought above their weight in losses to Hughson and Acalanes the past two weeks, and this was a chance to get a confidence-building win.
Right tackle/defensive end Diego Montes said the team is not discouraged. He realizes this is not the same roster that won the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV title in 2019 but believes it can regain some of that old swagger.
“It’s a new team,” Montes said. “Some players don’t even know how to play, and there are others who haven’t played in a while. It’s a new process, but we’re all getting through it and getting one percent better every day. We just have that mentality. We want to win every play.”
The wiry senior won many of his individual battles Thursday and was one of Sierra’s bright spots. Montes harassed quarterback Adael Diaz and other Pacheco ball carriers all night, coming up with multiple tackles for losses, a forced fumble and two sacks. His second sack went for a loss of 15 yards for the Panthers from Los Banos who were backed up on their own 1 as a result. Sierra was awarded its two points for the night on the next play, as Pacheco punter Isaac Medrano stepped out of bounds at the back of the end zone with 10:55 left in the game.
“I just felt that I had to step up and the whole defense stepped up,” Montes said. “We swarmed to the ball, so it was a team effort. I didn’t really do anything, I just wanted to do my job and help the team.”
The defense held Pacheco to three points and 47 yards in the second half. Sierra clamped down after giving up a 60-yard touchdown run to nimble receiver Amari Grace (four rushes, 71 yards) on Pacheco’s first drive of the contest.
“The defense did a really good job the rest of the night,” Johnson said. “The defense outscored our offense.”
The Timberwolves’ flexbone offense could not get untracked after coming up empty-handed in its promising game-opening series. Sierra drove for 6-plus minutes but was stopped on back-to-back plays on the Panthers’ 1. Louie Setterberg and Abel Bravo combined to stop Sierra’s Maximus Morales (eight rushes, 21 yards) short of the goal line on fourth down.
“That was a letdown,” Johnson said. “To not be able to punch it in from the 1-yard line takes a lot out of you, especially for a young group. We had some momentum and they believed in themselves. That’s the hardest thing; they have to learn to have some confidence.”
Sierra was fortunate to only be down 13-0 at halftime considering the favorable field position Pacheco on its four drives in the second quarter. The Timberwolves had two turnovers deep in their own territory on successive drives. After turning it over on downs on the first shot, the Panthers made the second one hurt for Sierra with a 1-yard touchdown from Jedidiah De la Torre (19 rushes, 34 yards).
Pacheco struck again on the first drive of the second half with Pablo Eustaquio’s 22-yard field goal but was shut out the rest of the way.
Still within reach late in the third quarter, Sierra let another six-point play slip through its fingers —literally. On third-and-14 from the Pacheco 30, Tyler Looney (4 of 15, 28 yards, interception) delivered a perfect over-the-shoulder ball that was dropped in the end zone.
Slotback Ryan Torres accounted for nearly half of the Timberwolves’ offensive production with 29 rushing yards and four receiving on six total touches.
“We just made a lot of mistakes,” Johnson said. “You see our youth, you see our inexperience, but the kids played hard and came out of halftime and played better. They want to do well. Every game is a growth experience for our team. It’s an opportunity to learn and get better.”
The T-wolves head to Stagg next Friday, Sept. 10.