One down, three to go.
The postseason before the postseason resumes for Sierra High’s football team Friday at Sonora’s renowned Dunlavy Field.
For the second straight season, the Timberwolves are forced to win their final four Valley Oak League contests for a berth to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III playoffs. Their biggest late-season threat last year was Sonora, which they soundly beat, 28-7.
That was at home. On Friday, Sierra (2-2, 3-4 overall) plays where Sonora (3-1, 5-2) is undefeated in three games this season.
The Wildcats, a Division-IV team for the postseason, were a 2-point conversion away from forcing overtime in undefeated Manteca’s homecoming last week, falling 34-32 in a hard-hitting bloodbath between two traditional titans.
Sonora was able to move the ball at will against Manteca’s defense, which had previously allowed just one player — Kimball quarterback Zack Johnson — to rush for at least 100 yards.
The Wildcats had two eclipse the century mark against the Buffaloes: Fullback Brandon Camara (12 rushes, 141 yards, three touchdowns) and the fleet-footed Austin Davis (10 rushes, 106 yards, two TDs).
Sonora was outgained 433-390 in total offensive yards and proved to be susceptible through the air, as backup QB Ryan Fox torched the Wildcat secondary for 192 yards on 8-of-14 passing. That bodes well for Sierra’s spread offense led by QB Anthony Perea and wide-outs Zach Penirian and Jordan Lewis.
Jayson Manuta rushed for over 100 yards in two of his last three contests as standout Anthony Cota’s (forearm) fill-in at running back, and he will be key in trying to keep Sonora’s defense off balance.
Both Weston Ranch and Kimball were competitive in Sonora because they were successful with their passing games. Weston Ranch led by nine late in the third quarter but was upended, 34-29. Kimball was in position to possibly tie it late but fumbled in the red zone, and Sonora put the game away with a long drive that resulted in a touchdown and a 35-20 victory.
In other Week-8 action:
East Union at Kimball
While they share the same record (1-6), Kimball’s schedule up this point has been far more brutal. All of its losses have come to playoff-caliber teams, and the Jaguars started league with Manteca, Oakdale, Sonora and Sierra.
Sierra needed a late defensive stand to hold off Kimball, 27-22. By comparison, EU kept pace with Sierra for a half before falling, 46-12.
Lathrop at Manteca
With starting QB Alex Martinez already out, Manteca (4-0, 7-0) lost starting center Daniel Clemons and RB/OLB Cameron Harvey to leg injuries against Sonora last week.
The Buffaloes are looking to stay sharp against Lathrop (0-4, 1-6), but with a trip to Oakdale up next staying healthy becomes more of a priority.
Oakdale at Weston Ranch
If Weston Ranch (2-2, 3-4) earns a postseason berth, it would be well-deserved. That’s because the Cougars need to win out starting with a home date with undefeated Oakdale.
Oakdale has been dominant, winning by an average margin of 33.7 points with its reserves seeing ample time on the field. Its most recent masterpiece was a 50-14 rout of East Union, which was competitive in a 42-36 loss at Weston Ranch two weeks ago.
Modesto Christian at Ripon
What a difference a year can make.
In this Trans-Valley League game last season, MC quarterback Nathan Sudfeld completed just five of 18 passes for 116 yards, no TDs and three picks in a 20-0 loss. Now, he is headed to Arizona and is one of the region’s top passers (1,607 yards, 20 TDs, two interceptions).
Six of Ripon’s previous seven opponents run ground-based attacks, so this is somewhat unchartered territory. But the Indians (1-2, 5-2) are plenty talented enough to hang, and they have the physical style that MC’s slim roster struggles with.
Ripon Christian at Delhi
It’s the biggest game of the year for Ripon Christian (2-2, 3-4). A win would put the Knights in a good position to finish the Southern League season in third place and with a Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI playoff berth.
The key to beating Delhi (3-1, 5-2) is slowing down its running game. Quarterback Cory Vargas has thrown the ball just 26 times all season, while four players — led by 5-10, 220-pound bruiser Antonio Cevantes — have rushed for over 300 yards each.
One common opponent of note is undefeated league rival Le Grand, which had trouble putting RC away until late in a 56-34 win while crushing Delhi, 47-3.