Junior quarterbacks Jack Weaver and Mark Vicente took their lumps in blowout losses last week.
On Friday, Weaver’s East Union Lancers go head-to-head with Vicente and Sierra in a homecoming battle between rivals at Dino Cunial Field.
Sierra has beaten East Union 11 straight years and owns a 15-5 lead in the all-time series. There is more than just bragging rights in the 21st meeting. An 0-2 start to the Valley Oak League season makes it tougher for the losing team to make the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
“We had our best practices the past few days,” East Union coach Willie Herrera said, “but I’ll bet you they’re having a great week of practice, too. This is a very important game for both teams.”
Weaver, a second-year varsity signal caller, had his worst game of the season in EU’s head-scratching 35-0 defeat at Lathrop. The Lancers (0-1 VOL, 3-1 overall) were scoring 37.7 points per game going into the league opener, but Lathrop gave them and their talented QB little room to roam on its homecoming night. East Union was held to 78 yards of offense and had 15 plays go for losses. Weaver was sacked eight times and threw two interceptions.
“Our faith in him is not shaken at all,” Herrera said. “The competitor in him and the rest of the kids, they are just chomping at the bit to redeem themselves.”
Vicente is in his first season as a full-time quarterback. After a solid finish to the nonleague schedule, Sierra (0-1, 2-2) was torched at Oakdale, 54-14. Vicente was 13 of 20 for 140 yards and had 24 rushing yards on 10 attempts. He flashed his playmaking ability on a 51-yard touchdown run that gave Sierra the first of its two early leads, 7-6, but six of his carries went for negative yards.
“We finally saw him run the ball the way we knew he could,” Sierra coach Jeff Harbison said. “We have all the faith in him throwing the ball and running the ball. We expect good things from him.”
The play of their quarterbacks is the least of the worries for the two coaches.
For Herrera, it’s about cleaning up the little mistakes — mishandled snaps hurt EU early last week — so that they don’t amount to bigger ones. Another concern is coping with the highs and lows of a season. His Lancers have gone from one extreme to the another after a dramatic 30-27 win over previously-unbeaten Gregori followed by the letdown in Lathrop.
“Coming off a big win or even a loss, you can’t let it emotionally drain you or take the focus away from the next opponent,” Herrera said. “Was that the case last week? I don’t know, but we did not play our best and Lathrop did a great job.
“We saw some points that we left on the field, had some blown assignments, receivers ran the wrong routes and ball carriers weren’t finding the right holes.”
Harbison said his team is working on cleaning up its pass defense, which was burned for several big plays in Oakdale. Adam Olson carved up the Timberwolves’ defensive backfield for 329 yards and six touchdowns.