To narrow a team’s game plan down to a single player would be unfair.
But when Sierra High got ready to play perennial Valley Oak League powerhouse Oakdale last season at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium, they had something that they could turn to as a default that is now noticeably lacking on the sideline.
The workhorse back gave the Timberwolves and their fast-paced, on-the-fly offense a between-the-tackles dynamic not unlike the one that they’ll face when they travel to The Corral on Friday to try and spoiler of the Mustangs’ homecoming celebration.
No, Sierra is not the same team that it was a year ago.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. That bruising back has been replaced with the strong arm and sure legs of quarterback Jake Pruitt, who passed for five touchdowns last week against Lathrop, and a cadre of skill athletes
They’ve averaged just over 47 points a game in each of their six contests this season and haven’t lost since getting edged out by Tracy in the season opener. And they proved in their thrilling win over Chavez of Stockton – a 61-58 late-game victory – that they’re not only able to score, but stand in the ring and trade punches.
“Jake is playing great football right now. He understands the passing concepts and the defenses that we’re going up against,” Sierra head coach Jeff Harbison said. “We haven’t had as strong of a running attack as we’re used to this season, and he’s really stepped up and filled that void with his passing.”
Last week Pruitt threw touchdowns to five different players. Anthony Cervantes rushed for 117 yards and caught five passes including a touchdown.
And it’s not like Sierra hasn’t already played its share of big games thus far.
To open the season the Timberwolves were forced to go through all of the opening ceremony brouhaha at Tracy High’s Wayne Schneider Stadium, and the team took what will be its last trip up to Sonora two weeks ago and secured the program’s first victory at Dunlavy Field.
But they have beaten Oakdale before. And they’ve beaten them on the road.
Trent Merzon has only three league losses in the 15 years that he’s been head coach of Oakdale’s storied program, and one of those came courtesy of Harbison during the 2009 season.
Walking into The Corral and dealing the Mustangs their second loss in as many weeks would be as large of a victory as the program has likely ever seen. Oakdale are six-time defending VOL champions, and the gauntlet the Timberwolves face in the coming weeks, including intracity rival Manteca, will likely determine who will sit atop the standings when the season wraps.
But just don’t expect to hear Harbison talk about that, or anything outside of how Friday’s contest is outside of the ordinary.
“It’s just another game on the schedule,” he said. “It’s a game we need to win to get to where we want to be. That’s how we’re approaching it.
“We know that it’s their homecoming and we know all of those other things, but we’re just going to go out there and play the football game we planned for.”