Matt Dunham made his first start as Sierra’s quarterback Friday with Shane Johnson sidelined by a minor injury to his throwing arm.
Normally a slotback in the Timberwolves’ flexbone offense, Dunham did just fine from behind center and leading the 50-6 trouncing of visiting Lathrop.
“It was a little nerve-wracking, but I have a lot of faith in my line because they’ve always done great for Shane,” Dunham said. “With everything he has done for us this season, taking us to 3-0, we just had to pick him up.
“Shane is the best teammate you can ask for. He was there for me on the field and off the field.”
Now 4-0 heading into its Valley Oak League opener against Kimball, Sierra remains unsatisfied.
“It feels good, but next week we’re coming into it like we’re 0-0, like we have won nothing,” Dunham said. “We’re going to stay hungry.”
Dunham and the T’wolves feasted on the winless Spartans (0-3), exploding for 23 points in the second quarter to stake a 30-0 halftime lead. He showed off his usual burst as a ball carrier, scampering for 148 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries while completing three of four passes for 85 yards.
Running back Kimoni Stanley churned out 139 yards and three touchdowns on 12 attempts, finding the end zone twice on short-yardage plays before busting a 76-yard touchdown run.
Nyco Mendoza added 52 yards rushing and another 52 receiving. His 21-yard jaunt midway through the third quarter stretched Sierra’s lead to 43-0.
“We can’t be dimensional, not in our league,” Sierra coach Chris Johnson said. “It’s kind of how our offense is designed; we’re going to take what they give us. One night it might be Kimoni, another night it’s going to be Dunham or Nyco. Luckily, we have some guys who can make some plays.”
All three had their time in the spotlight on this night, and the Timberwolves were making plays on both sides of scrimmage. The defense had two stops in the red zone and a safety in the first half. The safety was awarded when Lathrop QB Davis Raya-Ruiz (6 of 15, 139 yards), who was flagged for intentional grounding, threw the ball away while pressured by Josh Valdez in the end zone.
Joaquin Alvarez accounted for two of Sierra’s four sacks, and Javier Morales had a strip sack.
“When you look at the job the defense has done all year, they’ve only given up 18 points,” coach Johnson said. “Some teams have gotten a couple (touchdowns) late on us, but coach (Mike) James has done a great job of putting those guys in the right spots and they hustle and pursue. We’re lucky to have some pretty good players there.”
Lathrop also has some playmakers.
It was sophomore receiver Jason Seabron Jr. (four receptions, 135 yards) who ended Sierra’s shutout bid, turning a short pass into an electrifying 74-yard play with 1:07 left in the third period.
“We’re a very young team and Seabron is only a sophomore, we’re looking for some big things from him,” Lathrop coach Joe Pirillo said. “He is maturing and growing as a young athlete and we’re appreciating that. When we ask something of him he’s going to do it.”
Seabron’s touchdown was set up by Dunham’s only glaring mistake of the night. Rolling to his right under heavy pressure, Dunham lofted one up for grabs into traffic, intending to find Mendoza — he earlier won a jump ball on a similar play. Joey Sanchis came up with the interception for Lathrop.
“I just saw Nyco while people were running after me,” Dunham said. “I just kind of let it go.”
The Timberwolves were in a position to take such risks at that point. Lathrop, on the other hand, could not overcome various mishaps — such as penalties and fumbles — that halted some early drives that had promise.
Standout running back Isaac Ramos broke loose for some big gains in the opening quarter but settled on 78 yards on 11 rushes.
“When you make mistakes constantly, a score like that is going to happen every time,” Pirillo said. “We have to find a way to stop making mistakes.”
Lathrop 0 0 6 0 — 6
Sierra 7 23 13 7 — 50
S—Kimoni Stanley 2 run (Jordan Shinn kick), 9:25.
S—Stanley 1 run (Shinn kick), 11:43.
S—Matt Dunham 1 run (Shinn kick), 8:33.
S—Stanley 76 run (Shinn kick), 2:48.
S—Dunham 63 run (Shinn kick), 10:10.
S—Nyco Mendoza 21 run (kick missed), 6:12.
L—Jason Seabron Jr. 74 pass from Davis Raya-Ruiz (pass failed), 1:07.
S—Christopher Christian 1 run (Shinn kick), 7:20.