Many of its stars have graduated since its historic 2015 run, but Sierra has had little trouble getting players to participate in its summer program.
After a 5-5 finish in the regular season, the Timberwolves squeaked into the postseason and claimed their first Sac-Joaquin Section title before adding CIF Division IV-A NorCal and State Bowl championships.
“We’ve had a real good turnout this summer,” 12th-year head coach Jeff Harbison said. “We’re getting about 57 kids out.”
With contact camps now abolished in the state, Sierra fine-tuned its spread offense in 7-on-7 tournaments and scrimmages. It held its final practice before the SJS Dead Period (July 18-Aug. 7). Until last year, Sierra participated in the Stagg camp annually.
“It’s difficult without the camp,” Harbison said. “We can’t get a full assessment of our kids without the pads on, which is unfortunate.”
Sierra went head-to-head with West, Mountain House and Enochs in 7-on-7s and competed in passing tournaments hosted by Stagg and Modesto Junior College. The Timberwolves went 2-2 at MJC on July 9.
“We held our own,” Harbison said. “We stayed true to what we do offensively and defensively. Some teams go out there and play a 7-on-7 offense and defense and that’s their season. That isn’t our season. We’re going out there to get better and we’re going to run our stuff to do so, but we don’t hang our hats on 7-on-7s.”
One beneficiary of the passing competitions is senior quarterback Mark Vicente. With little experience behind center going into his junior year, he went through growing pains before leading the charge to a state championship with a game-deciding drive late in the fourth quarter of the Timberwolves’ 20-15 win at Chowchilla.
“There’s a tremendous difference in Mark Vicente from last year to this year,” Harbison said. “He has a good grasp of what we’re trying to do. He understands his reads a lot better, he understands the concepts and he’s looking pretty strong.”
Taking on leadership roles over the summer are linebacker/running back Seuseu Alofaituli, linebacker/offensive lineman Nashon Tamiano and running back/safety Marcos Castillo. The trio anchored Sierra’s Valley Oak League championship at the freshman level before helping the varsity claim the league crown as sophomores.
“We’re getting great leadership from Seu, Nashon and Marcos and we’re expecting big things from them,” We see them contributing quite a bit on both sides of the ball.”
Sierra has the same non-league opponents as in 2015, starting with a road game against defending Trans-Valley League champion Ripon on Aug. 26 followed by its home opener against Central Valley. The Timberwolves then head to the Grape Bowl to take on Lodi before a bye week.