Sierra may be faced with a must-win situation Friday, one its Week-10 opponent is familiar with.
The roles are reversed in this regular-season finale, as the Timberwolves (2-4 Valley Oak League, 5-4 overall) can earn a Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berth with a win over Weston Ranch (1-5, 4-5).
At this point a year ago, it was Weston Ranch that was primed for a postseason appearance when it visited Sierra. What transpired has been a source of motivation for the Cougars in 2016.
Last year, Weston Ranch built a 27-13 lead and had all the momentum on its side before the T’wolves came roaring back for a 34-27 victory. Sierra ended up sneaking into the playoffs with a 5-5 record while the Cougars stayed home. A month later, Sierra celebrated the finish of a memorable run to the CIF State Division IV-A championship.
A win for Weston Ranch on Friday is no guarantee for a postseason appearance, which would be its first since 2005. Working against the Cougars is their overall strength of schedule, which is determined by adding up opponents’ wins. Sierra would have a better chance despite a loss and having the same record since two of its nonleague opponents have winning records and are competing for conference titles.
“Anything can happen, right?” Weston Ranch coach Seth Davis said. “It happened for Sierra last year. If we can win we’ll hold out hope until those brackets come out.”
Weston Ranch gave itself an outside chance by beating Kimball 20-0 last week, snapping a five-game losing streak. It was supposed to be homecoming for the Cougars, but rain postponed it for this Friday. Included in the festivities is senior night, and Davis hopes his team can feed off emotion.
“It’s a big deal for us to play a Week-10 game that matters for a second year in a row,” Davis said. “Even though we’re not where we wanted to be at the start of the season we’d like to at least close it out with a win, for sure.”
Sierra could have secured a probable at-large playoff bid last week but was stunned by Lathrop (2-4, 3-6), 49-21. The Timberwolves struggled to contain running backs Michael Ramos (201 yards, two TDs) and Tremayne Tuipuloto Willis Jr. (111 yards, two TDs). The offense also struggled to gain traction no thanks to drive-killing turnovers and penalties.
“Sierra is still a really good team and they’re playing for something,” Davis said. “I think they’re going to bring the best they’ve brought all year. For us to compete with them we’ll have to play four quarters. We can’t play just two quarters like we did last year.”