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Out for revenge
Sierra, Ripon teams look for better start in 2011
Sierra Highs Anthony Cota gets the handoff from quarterback Anthony Perea while running offensive drills during a recent practice. The Timberwolves should get a stern test from visiting Enochs today. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Three area squads got a head start in the 2010 season when the Sac-Joaquin Section revamped the football schedule to include Week Zero contests, but they combined for zero wins going into Week 1.

Sierra and Ripon will look to avenge those heartbreaking losses today, while Ripon Christian will have its rematch against SJS Division-VI semifinalist Big Valley Christian on Saturday. All three games will be at the home sites of the area teams.

Sierra has the toughest task of the three, as Division-I Enochs of the Modesto Metro Conference visits Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium for the second straight year. It was there last season that the Eagles — who eventually won the MMC championship and advanced to the SJS Division-I quarterfinals — made a huge statement by knocking off then-defending Valley Oak League champion Sierra.

It was a rough way to start the season for the Timberwolves, who led at halftime but gave up 21 unanswered points in a 35-25 loss. Herbert Whitehurst exploded for 151 yards and four touchdowns for Enochs.

The good news for Sierra is that Whitehurst and QB Christian Kahler have graduated, but the Eagles are again loaded at the skill positions and bring up players from last year’s talented sophomore squad.

Tyler Munoz takes over at quarterback after a standout season at safety (six interceptions). Justice Chambers and Jesse Castillo return to the backfield.

Like Sierra, Enochs isn’t particularly big up front but is experienced with the likes of Eric Flores (6-1, 255) and Justin Gilbert (6-4, 240) doing the dirty work.

The defense should again be solid despite the loss of leading tackler Kurtis Sewell (14 per game). Last year’s team gave up 16 points per game and brings back No. 2 tackler Josiah Okamoto at inside linebacker.

Ripon will take on a Ceres team that notched its lone 2010 victory against the Indians in dramatic fashion. A stop at the 1-inch line in the final minutes clinched Ceres’ 22-15 victory, and it was the Bulldogs’ first season-opening win in 13 years.

Ceres is optimistic in 2011 with the return of Bret Durosette, who was coach of its last league championship and playoff team in 2004. In addition, the seniors, led by athletic all-purpose player Nick Welsh and bruising RB/LB Zach Naylor, have been successful in the past. As freshmen, they won a share of the Valley Oak League championship. Ceres now plays in the Western Athletic Conference.

The Bulldogs have size and experience on the offensive line with Jesse Hidahl (6-2, 240) and Shannon Dinsdale (6-6, 275).  Junior Blake Hurst is the undisputed QB after Ceres used up to three, including Welsh, in single games.

Ripon Christian and Big Valley Christian will meet again in a revival of an old, albeit short-lived league rivalry. Back when both were in the Mountain Valley League, RC smashed the Lions by a combined score of 121-0 in 2004 and 05.

Much has changed since.

Ripon Christian went 3-7 in its first sting in the Southern League last year, while Big Valley went 9-3 and advanced to the SJS Division-VI semifinals.

The 2010 reunion started off well for RC, which struck for the game’s first touchdown. That was before Big Valley’s bread-and-butter running game took over.

Big Valley has suffered some big losses since, including the transfer of senior RB/LB Jonathan Golliher. Jonathan Amaral, a 6-foot-4 TE/OLB, is the team’s top returner after recording seven sacks last year.