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Sierra looks to get back on track at Ranch
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Sierra and Weston Ranch are both looking to finish out the regular season strong but under entirely different circumstances.

The two teams meet Friday at Weston Ranch for their annual Week-10 encounter.

For Sierra (5-1, 8-1 overall), it’s a chance to clinch a share of its second Valley Oak League championship. The Timberwolves would also like to build some momentum heading into the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs after suffering a 34-20 defeat across town at Manteca’s muddy Guss Schmiedt Field on Halloween night. They even showed cracks in the armor the week prior in a closer-than-expected 35-21 homecoming win over East Union.

Sierra started out the season averaging 57 points per game in four blowout victories. Then came its 17-14 win over Central Catholic, which was backed up two weeks later by a 31-20 triumph against Oakdale.

Topping big-name opponents raised Sierra’s stock. At this point last week the Timberwolves were No. 3 in Cal-Hi Sports’ CIF Northern California Division II Bowl rankings and seventh overall in the MaxPreps SJS Top 25. They’ve since been dropped to No. 6 by Cal-Hi Sports, while MaxPreps now has them 16th behind No. 15 Manteca, No. 14 Oakdale and No. 13 Central Catholic.

Perhaps they can regain some of that luster this week against a re-energized Weston Ranch squad.

The Cougars (2-4, 3-6) will miss the postseason for a ninth straight year but can set the tone for 2015 Friday night. They welcomed eight players from ineligibility last week and toppled East Union, 14-8.

“They made a huge impact,” Weston Ranch coach Seth Davis said of the roster additions, most of who started, after Friday’s win. “Hopefully it’s something that we can get rolling for next week and the future.”

The game will feature two exciting junior running backs in Sierra’s Mark Paule Jr. (1,573 yards, 30 TDs) and Weston Ranch’s Erron Duncan. Paule was limited to a season-low 56 yards against Manteca, dropping him to second behind Priest Jennings (1,661 yards, 19 TDs) of Chavez amoung section leaders. Duncan had 168 total yards from scrimmage at East Union, much of it coming on a key 71-yard gain that set up Weston Ranch’s late go-ahead touchdown.

Two talented receivers will also be on display. Marque Watson caught five passes for 122 yards and a touchdown for Weston Ranch last week, and he held East Union’s No. 1 wide out, Austin Miller, to a single catch. He’ll likely be matched up with Sierra’s 6-foot-4 Hunter Johnson (643 yards, six TDs) while playing corner back on defense.

Also on Friday:

Lathrop (1-5, 2-7) at

Kimball (0-6, 1-8)

No other team in the area has had it as tough as Lathrop in the last five weeks, a stretch that includes two close losses to Manteca and East Union and lopsided defeats to the VOL’s top three teams.

In the last two weeks the Spartans ceded more than 50 points each to Central Catholic and Oakdale, and the offense hasn’t produced any points since their 28-21 setback at East Union on Oct. 17.

They get some relief in their season finale Friday.

Kimball is having its worst season since going 1-9 in 2010 as a first-year varsity team with no seniors. The Jaguars’ one win — a 55-25 clobbering of Bear Creek in nonleague play — is noteworthy, however. Bear Creek could be well on its way to clinching an automatic playoff berth out of the San Joaquin Athletic Association.

Trans-Valley League

Hughson (2-2, 6-3)

at Ripon (2-2, 3-6)

Ripon lost to Escalon 14-9 on the road last week and was eliminated from the playoff race.

The junior-heavy team can at least go out with a bang with a win over Hughson, which is vying for a postseason bid Friday night. The Huskies, however, are mired in controversy stemming from a reported hazing incident.

The Modesto Bee revealed Tuesday that several Hughson players have been suspended and head coach George Harp has been placed on administrative leave. The Bee reported that Harp was not with the team in last week’s win over Riverbank.

Southern League

Delhi (3-3, 5-4) at

Ripon Chr. (4-2, 7-2)

This is the one game in the area that has an impact on the immediate future of both teams involved.

Ripon Christian can secure a likely first-round SJS Division VI home game with a win. Also at stake is the SL’s second automatic berth, but the Knights need Mariposa to lose against Le Grand to make it happen.

Delhi is on the bubble to advance and greatly helped its cause by upsetting Gustine 7-6 on the road last week. Gustine defeated Ripon Christian 23-7 just three weeks ago.

Ripon Christian hosts Delhi at Modesto Christian on Friday.