SAN ANDREAS — Daniel Wyatt was supposed to have had the football cleats switched out for the high-top basketball shoes by now.
“It can wait,” he said. “I need another one.”
He craves another Sac-Joaquin Section title, but this time for football.
Wyatt sparked the third-seeded Timberwolves with his two touchdowns, and quarterback Mark Vicente had a hand in three in Friday’s 34-20 SJS Division IV semifinal triumph over No. 2 Calaveras at Frank Meyer Field.
Wyatt, an electric point guard, played a big role in Sierra’s first-ever section championship run for basketball last year. Also on that squad were center/linebacker Scott Teicheira and linebacker Enrique Jasso.
The trio is part of school history once again, as the football team makes its first section-final appearance next Saturday, Nov. 28 at Elk Grove High. Sierra (7-5) takes on No. 4 Liberty Ranch (8-4), which held off No. 8 Los Banos (7-5) 44-42 on Friday. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.
“This team has had its ups and downs this season, but when it really mattered we stepped up to the situation,” Jasso said. “We have heart and we’re going to keep going until our time comes to an end, and that’s what I love about my teammates.
“I take my hat off to Calaveras, they played hard,” Jasso added, “but I just felt that we wanted it a little bit more.”
Wyatt (six receptions, 69 yards) scored the game’s first points early in the second quarter, snagging a high-arcing, 20-yard toss from Vicente. Sierra never trailed from there, but Calaveras (8-4) tied it at 14 early in the fourth on Anthony Giangregorio’s 55-yard halfback pass to Trevor Ramirez. Ramirez’s four catches and 112 yards all came in the final period.
The Redskins’ equalizer set off the offensive fireworks in the fourth quarter after both teams were held scoreless in the first and third.
Wyatt answered with an 82-yard jaunt into the end zone on the ensuing kickoff return.
“Honestly I was thinking about just falling on it, but then I thought that I might as well take a chance because you never know what could happen,” said Wyatt, who initially grabbed the ball after it had bounced off the turf several times. “When I picked it up I saw green ahead of me. It was the best feeling ever.”
The Timberwolves got the ball right back thanks to Marcos Castillo’s interception on Calaveras’ second play of the following series. Castillo returned it 20 yards to the Redskins’ 20, then on third-and-11 Vicente doubled the lead at 28-14 with a 21-yard keeper aided by a key downfield block by receiver Jesse Babauta.
Vicente finished with two rushing touchdowns and was efficient through the air, completing 19 of 23 passes for 156 yards and no interceptions.
Calaveras returned fire with another quick strike, as Giangregorio went 66 yards up the middle. That made it 28-20 with 5:45 remaining after the point-after kick sailed wide.
Sierra delivered the backbreaker on the next play from scrimmage. Mark Paule Jr., who was limited for much of the first half, broke loose for a 65-yard touchdown sprint down the left sideline for the final points of the contest.
Paule ended up with 121 yards on 13 rushes and was also involved in the passing game (three receptions, 31 yards). Sierra totaled 306 yards of offense.
“It’s all on our line, man,” Paule said. “Our line started opening up the holes and our receivers were working hard to open up the lanes for me. It was a team effort.”
The game ended with Josh Lee sacking Calaveras quarterback Dylan Byrd (9 of 16, 163 yards, touchdown) for a second time. The Sierra defense was solid, for the most part, but Calaveras was able to get big chunks for its 376 yards its scoring plays that covered 211.
It started with Byrd’s short pass to J.J. Gonzalez that turned into a 90-yard catch-and-run for Calaveras’ first points with 1:05 to go in the first half. Sierra led 14-7 at the break. Noah Preuss, the Redskins’ featured back, was held to just 56 yards on 22 carries.
“Our defense in the first half played some terrific football; one big play was all (Calaveras) had,” Sierra coach Jeff Harbison said. “We stifled them pretty well but we let them hang around a little too long instead of putting that exclamation point on it earlier.”
Better late than never, especially for a team that some believed to be unworthy of its No. 3 seed after going 5-5 in the regular season.
“These kids heard it,” Harbison said. “They heard that they couldn’t get it done, that they’re a 5-5 team in the playoffs and they’re going to be out in the first round. They didn’t buy into the rhetoric. They just came out and played football.”