WHAT: SJS D-III playoffs
WHO: (3) Sierra vs. (14) Rosemont
WHERE: Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium
WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m.
ADMISSION: $10 adults, $7 seniors/students, Free for kids 5-under
Measuring how two teams fared against common opponents is one way to gauge how they match up against each other.
Sierra head coach Jeff Harbison said that has little relevance to his No. 3-seeded Timberwolves’ Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoff opener against No. 14 Rosemont, an underdog they are not taking lightly. They square off this Friday at Sierra’s Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium, where they are undefeated in three postseason games.
Back in Week 1, Sierra (9-1) trounced Laguna Creek, which ended up 2-8, 48-6. The following Friday, Laguna Creek beat Rosemont (6-4), 21-14.
“That doesn’t even play into the equation on Friday night,” Harbison said. “It’s a different team from the beginning of the year.
“I think there are two different Rosemont teams in a weird way. There’s the one that lost to Laguna Creek, who we handled pretty well. Then there’s the one that had a back (DeShawn Allen) rush for 302 yards on just eight touches in their final game (a 51-20 beatdown of 3-7 Johnson) of the regular season.”
Harbison is preparing his troops for the latter, especially with his top offensive weapon questionable for Friday’s contest. Record-setting RB Anthony Cota (1,734 yards, 35 touchdowns) injured an ankle late in the first quarter of Sierra’s 49-0 win at Weston Ranch last week.
Cota did not return to the field, but the Timberwolves didn’t need them to. Sierra’s coaches have no problem putting their faith in blossoming junior quarterback Jake Pruitt (65 percent passing, 1,305 yards, 6 TDs, 3 picks) and a passing attack that features several reliable receivers. One of them is Guillermo Nunez, who started out the year as the team’s starting signal caller but has settled into a multi-purpose role.
“Jake Pruitt and the receivers have done a great job for us the last few weeks,” Harbison said. “The passing game really is coming along. You have to mention Guillermo Nunez, who filled in for Cota at running back last week, can play at slot receiver and also plays safety. He has really stepped it up.”
Like Sierra, the Wolverines of Sacramento have qualified for the section playoffs for the fourth time in school history, all coming in the last five years. Rosemont played its first varsity season in 2005 with no seniors.
Tyler Masterson (51 percent, 1,645 yards, 21 TDs, 13 picks) operates out of a traditional I-formation that is balanced out by a power running game. Sophomore DJ Harris (593 yards, 9 TDs) and Allen (705 yards, 9 TDs), who averages 10.5 yards per carry, are the Wolverines’ leading rushers. Anthony Fernandez (38 receptions, 521 yards, 9 TDs), a 6-foot-4, 222-pound tight end, is their top receiver.
“They have a lot of team speed, just a very athletic team,” Harbison said. “Their quarterback can spin the ball well and he’s got receivers that can make things happen. They’re a dangerous offensive team and a formidable opponent.”
Sierra’s defense can be formidable as well. They are coming off two shutouts of Lathrop and Weston Ranch and have held five opponents to seven or less points, but the Timberwolves yielded an average of 37 points, albeit to top teams with good offenses.
“It’s a tale of two seasons for our defense,” Harbison said. “We have to be at the top of our game defensively against a team that has a lot of weapons like Rosemont does.”