When the Sierra offense drove 64 yards on five plays to score on its first possession, the high-production unit that had scored more than 130 points in the previous two weeks appeared to be rolling in Friday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV quarterfinal against visiting Atwater.
Not even an answer from the visiting Falcons on the ensuing possession was enough to slow down the fourth-seeded Timberwolves, who answered with a five-play, 74-yard drive to retake the lead.
But it wasn’t until the defense started rolling that the offense was able to reach its full potential, taking the ball away six times as Sierra steamrolled past No. 5 Atwater 63-14 to earn a chance to knock off top-seeded Rio Linda.
“That’s what good football teams do,” Sierra head coach Chris Johnson said following the statement victory. “When another team makes mistakes, they capitalize on it and that’s what we did tonight. You can’t leave points on the table, and our defense set up those points and our offense followed through.
“I’m very proud of the total team effort tonight and the way that everybody played their part. We stress that as part of the family approach we’re building here — everybody doing their job and relying on their brother to do their job. And everybody did their job tonight.”
While the defense was busy stifling Atwater’s potent attack — to the tune of three interceptions and two fumble recoveries, one of which was returned by defensive end Josh Valdez 48 yards for a touchdown — the Timberwolf offense was relying on the shifty moves of Kimoni Stanley. The junior tailback accounted for five of Sierra’s touchdowns and racked up 241 yards on 20 carries.
While the bulk of his yardage came from breaking into space after outrunning the Atwater defense around the corner, Stanley said that he was proud of the team effort and the execution.
“We had a good week of practice and we came in focused tonight and were ready to execute the way we had practiced,” Stanley said. “That’s what happens when you’re working with your family — you work hard because you don’t want to let your teammates down, and tonight we were a collective team.”
While the Sierra defense appeared at first to struggle with containing Atwater’s offense, allowing a touchdown on the Falcons’ opening possession, the Timberwolves quickly adjusted and shut down both the ground and air attacks and contained their opponent almost entirely.
The Falcons didn’t score again until well into the running clock in the fourth quarter after Sierra had pulled nearly all of its starters from the game.
The defensive performance helped establish the Sierra offense, and creating those opportunities was something that Sierra worked all season on improving upon.
“I was very pleased with the performance tonight,” Sierra defensive coordinator Mike James said. “It was like when we had the loss against Manteca we saw what we needed to do and we started putting those things together. It was like that allowed us to go back and make some changes and start playing together as a unit and tonight we put all of those things together. I’m very pleased with what we accomplished.
“I’m proud of the takeaways, but whatever we’re feeding the offense right now, we’ve got keep chewing because they’re doing it for us.”
Sierra 22 13 28 0 — 63
Atwater 8 0 0 6 — 14
S—Matt Dunham 8 run (Jordan Shinn kick), 10:30.
A—Julius Peacock 36 pass to Henry Palacios (run good), 7:21.
S—Shane Johnson 13 run (Kimoni Stanley run), 5:25.
S—Stanley 49 run (Shinn kick), 2:15.
S—Stanley 2 run (run failed), 10:58.
S—Stanley 28 run (Shinn kick), 4:42.
S—Stanley 28 run (Shinn kick), 5:42.
S—Stanley 17 run (Shinn kick), 4:19.
S—Johnson 29 run (Shinn kick), 3:24.
S—Josh Valdez 48 fumble return (Shinn kick), 2:19.
A—Charles Jackson 70 run (run failed), 7:08.