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Sierra opens playoffs with familiar foe
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The 2009 season marked the end of Sierra and Patterson’s annual non-league meeting.

Sierra won 17-6 last year after Patterson had claimed three in a row against the Timberwolves.

This Friday, they will reunite at Patterson Community Stadium for an interesting first-round showdown in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs.

It’s unlikely an opening matchup that either team was hoping for, partially because of their familiarity with each other, and partially because both teams are heading into the postseason riding hot streaks.

The game is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m.

“Patterson deservedly is a No. 2 seed,” said head coach Jeff Harbison of the 15th-seeded Timberwolves. “They’re a big, strong and solid football team with speed.

“We got to see them vs. Grace Davis and Granada, who are common opponents, and Patterson is very good on offense and defense.”

For the record, Sierra (6-4) beat Grace Davis 38-28 and lost to Granada, 56-42. Patterson (9-1) shut out Davis 35-0 to kick off the season before suffering its only defeat to Granada, 27-6.

Patterson is coming off its two biggest wins of the season, edging Los Banos and small-school powerhouse Central Catholic in Weeks 9 and 10 to earn the championship in the Western Athletic Conference. The outright title is the Tigers’ first since 1968.

Patterson, however, lost its top receiver, Rodney Lawson (24 receptions, 561 yards, 10 touchdowns), for the year. He fractured a femur in Patterson’s 21-15 victory against Los Banos.

Third-year varsity quarterback Cody Weinzheimer (77-of-154, 1,524 yards, 17 TDs, 7 INTs) is still surrounded by weapons, including 6-foot-4 wide out Nick Ward, and a physical offensive line.

Patterson operates out of the pistol formation, a significant change from the triple-option that Sierra defended in their previous engagements.

“(The loss of Lawson) absolutely makes a difference, but they are still very effective in the passing game,” Harbison said. (Ward) is a really good receiver we are concerned about.

“They’re certainly familiar with our offense,” Harbison added. “Patterson has changed their offense a couple of times. … We’re not quite as familiar with them as they are of us.”

Sierra’s offense is at full strength after early injuries to key players. The spread, led by dual-threat Adrian Valencia has been on point of late, outscoring its last four opponents by an average of 47-10.

The Timberwolves began the season 2-4 but strung together four straight wins to qualify for the playoffs.

“I think we’re peaking at the right time,” Harbison said. “We’ve gotten healthier. Getting Adrian (Valencia) back for this run has been helpful, and getting (running back) Aaron Manuta back has been a blessing.

“We’ve had up to six starters out for parts of the year, and things are really starting to click for this team. At the start of the season, we had one returning player on defense, so it took a few weeks for them to familiarize themselves with what they are doing.”