It turns out Sierra gets one more game on the familiar muck at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium.
For the first time in school history, the Timberwolves (11-3) are hosting a CIF State Northern California Regional Bowl Game on Saturday against Rohnert Park’s Rancho Cotate (10-3). They’re competing in Division III-A and for a chance to square off with SoCal finalists Sunny Hills (12-2) or Bakersfield Christian (10-3) for a state title.
With rain expected today and Saturday, Sierra could have moved to a site with artificial turf. Nearby Ripon is hosting its Division IV-AA Bowl Game against Sutter tonight at Downey of Modesto. For Sierra, it will be its first game at home since its 63-15 blowout of Atwater in the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs on Nov. 15.
“It’s going to be a mud pit,” Sierra coach Chris Johnson said. “For us, it doesn’t really affect what we do. We threw the ball 12 times against Oakdale (last Saturday in the section final) and that had to be a record (for the season). For our school and community to host a game of this magnitude is special, and we’re going to do it until someone says we can’t.”
Rancho Cotate certainly has some say in it.
The Cougars have a punishing running back in 6-foot-1, 225-pound Rasheed Rankin, and they’re coming off a defensive gem in which they shut out Oregon State-bound Isaiah Newell and top-seeded Las Lomas 7-0 in the North Coast Section Division III championship. Rankin’s 1-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter decided it, and he finished with 103 yards on 22 carries. It’s Rancho’s first NCS title since 2002.
Orchestrating the spread offense is Jared Stocker, who threw for 2,522 yards and 25 touchdowns last year.
“They grind you out pretty good and run right at you, but they’re diverse enough to force you be stay balanced,” Johnson said. “They can pass it, but they like to stick No. 25 (Rankin) right at you. They’re willing to go 3-4 yards at a time and make it look like a rugby scrum.”
Rancho Cotate has won seven straight since losing back-to-back against NCS Division III and IV finalists Campolindo and Cardinal Newman. The Cougars opened the season with a 24-6 loss to Sacramento, which went 2-8 with a tough schedule, but do have a 17-10 victory over Pleasant Valley. Pleasant Valley hosts Escalon in the Division IV-A NorCal Bowl on Saturday.
“We’re playing a team we know nothing about, and I’m not sure how much they can know about us,” Johnson said. “They’re obviously good and play very hard. Anyone you face is an unknown commodity and it this point it doesn’t matter, you just go play.”
Sierra is vying for its second state championship and can break a program record for most wins in a season. The Timberwolves have already tied Jeff Harbison’s 2009 team, which went 11-2. Harbison also led Sierra to the Division IV-A state title in 2015.
The program’s single-season and career rushing records are also on the line. Kimoni Stanley is likely to surpass Mark Paule’s 2014 single-season mark of 2,024 yards — Stanley’s exact total so far through 13 games. Although Paule played in only 12 games, he had more carries (263-205) to get to 2,024. He’s also the school’s career leader with 3,546 yards, and his 43 rushing touchdowns in 2014 is another record.
Stanley, a junior, is at 3,399 yards and 48 touchdowns in the past two years and will need another big effort to eclipse Paule’s career record. Three-year standout Anthony Cota is No. 2 on the list with 3,543 career rushing yards and 62 touchdowns.
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Rancho Cotate (10-3) vs. Sierra (11-3)
WHAT: CIF State Division III-A NorCal Regional Bowl Game
WHEN: Saturday, 6 p.m. kickoff
WHERE: Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium, Sierra HS
ADMISSION: $12 general, $8 children/students (ASB card)/seniors. Advance tickets available online at https://gofan.co/app/school/CIF