Chris Johnson and his coaching staff at Sierra have less than a month to figure out the starting lineups for their varsity team.
“You’ll be looking at a brand-new Sierra football team,” Johnson said. “A lot of questions are going to be answered in the next couple weeks.”
Only two players return with experience as varsity starters. This past spring, the Timberwolves battled through injuries to finish 1-4. Decimated by ineligibilities, the freshman and junior varsity squads folded and left Johnson with close to 40 players total.
Kimoni Stanley, the school’s all-time leading rusher, star defensive end Christian Threadgill and an experienced offensive line graduated. They were among the chief holdovers from the 2019 Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship team. Other key players from the spring included QB Ryan Borgeson and WR Zion Bell, but both were first-year seniors.
First official practices begin in the SJS this Monday, and Johnson still feels like he is getting to know his team.
“I have not been in this position as a coach, to have so many open spots,” Johnson said. “We lose a year of development and getting a chance to build a relationship with these kids, so it puts a unique spin on things. It’s a unique challenge, for sure.”
Johnson believes the program has the numbers to have three teams, but that will likely require some reinforcements from the freshman and junior classes to help fill out the JV roster. The pandemic-delayed season affected football programs in different ways. For Sierra, it led to a complete rebuild at every level.
“It’s like we took a year off from football and starting completely over,” Johnson said. “Having to sit at home for a year did a lot to the kids, not just physically but mentally and emotionally. Being out there in the summer early in the morning has been a shot in the arm for our program. I don’t know if it’s because of the circumstances, but it has been a fun summer to coach. It has been re-motivating for everybody.”
At the varsity level, the competition for starting spots at the skill positions have already begun. Senior Adam Barrera and junior Tyler Looney led the team in 7-on-7 scrimmages against Tracy, West, Mountain House, Central Valley and Ripon.
The team spent much of the summer in the weight room and has even gotten to break in a new outdoor workout facility next to the school’s revamped tennis courts.
“We’ve had a good summer and our workouts have been well attended — they seem to be excited,” Johnson said. “It’s a breath of fresh air to have a sense of normalcy.”
Sierra’s season begins Aug. 20 at Hughson. The home opener is the following Saturday, Aug. 28 against Acalanes of Lafayette. The Timberwolves round out the pre-league schedule against Pacheco and Stagg.