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Sierra subdues potent Panthers
Defense shuts out Modesto in 2nd half; Grady ties program record with 7 TDs
Modesto-Sierra football
Sierra running back Anthony Grady bolts for the end zone ahead of Modesto’s James Casey (57), Gabriel Rodriguez (50) and Jaden Rivera (21) for one of his seven touchdowns Monday at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium. - photo by Wayne Thallander


Modesto 7 20 0 0 — 27

Sierra 20 10 23 6 — 59


First quarter

S — Anthony Grady 16 run (run failed), 11:02.

S — Grady 24 run (Paul Barrios kick), 5:38.

S — Grady 2 run (Barrios kick), 3:33.

M — Zion Garan 63 run (Heston Blom kick), 2:20.


Second quarter

S — Barrios 23 field goal, 11:56.

M — Blom 44 pass from Eli McCabe (pass failed), 9:11.

M — McCabe 30 run (Blom kick), 5:57.

S — Grady 34 run (Barrios kick), 3:11.

M — McCabe 48 run (Blom kick), 2:36.


Third quarter

S — Grady 55 pass from Tim Sarginson (Barrios kick), 11:46.

S — Maximus Morales safety, 11:16.

S — Izayah Houston 25 pass from Sarginson (Barrios kick), 2:20.

S — Grady 27 run (Barrios kick), 0:38.4.


Fourth quarter

S — Grady 37 run (run failed), 7:25.

There was no slowing Sierra’s momentum Monday when it resumed its non-league encounter with visiting Modesto at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium.

Junior running back Anthony Grady tied a program record with seven touchdowns, and the defense held the Panthers’ potent offense scoreless in the second half en route to a surprising 59-27 rout. It’s the first win of the season for the Timberwolves (1-3) and the first for Jeff Harbison in his second stint as head coach.

Modesto (2-3) dropped its third straight and has been limited to a season-low 27 points in back-to-back weeks.

“This is a huge confidence boost,” Grady said. “We really needed this win, and I think we’re going to have more to come this year.”

Grady finished with 25 rushes for 192 yards and six touchdowns to go with six receptions, for another 112 yards and a touchdown.

“I really loved how my blockers did; I wouldn’t have the amount of yards and touchdowns that I did without them,” Grady said. “I’m just thankful for them.”

Sierra also had a breakthrough effort from Tim Sarginson, who is taking all the snaps behind center with Arjan Birdi out with a knee injury. Sarginson completed 19 of 23 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns.

“Sarginson has come in and we’re proud of the effort he has given. He’s doing a good job,” Harbison said. “(Offensive coordinator) Jeff (Abrew) has worked with him and Arjan, and we’re seeing positive outcomes from both of them.”

Last season, Grady was one of several sophomores who took their lumps in a 1-9 campaign. The T’wolves struggled at the outset of 2022 but showed improvement every week.

Friday and Monday provided a glimpse of how explosive they can be in Harbison’s spread offense. The homecoming game started Friday but was halted with 5:11 left in the second quarter because of a gun scare.

“That was pretty weird,” Sierra linebacker Maximus Morales said. “We obviously didn’t expect to come out here (last Friday) and only play a quarter and a half. We knew what we had to come and do today — we were ready. We just came out here and executed.”

The action picked up Monday with Sierra clinging onto a 23-20 lead and holding possession. The two teams each scored a touchdown — a 34-yard dash from Grady and a 48-yard scamper from Modesto quarterback Eli McCabe — before halftime, and Sierra was ahead 30-27 at the intermission.

The Timberwolves jumped out to a 20-0 lead on Friday and had a similar burst to start the second half Monday. Only this time, they were able to keep momentum for good and turn this into a one-sided affair.

Special teams set the tone with a little bit of luck on their side on the second-half kickoff. Paul Barrios’ pooch kick inadvertently bounced off a Modesto blocker, and it was the place kicker who recovered it.

Although that was the result of good fortune, special teams played an important role all game for Sierra. Izayah Houston and Nikko Camarena gave the offense some good field position with big gains on kickoff returns. Barrios also kicked a field goal and had an onside kick recovered by Camarena in the first half.

“Coach (Mike) James takes a lot of pride in special teams, and he put together a good game plan,” Harbison said. “Izayah had some great (returns) Friday night and it just continued tonight.”

Sierra immediately capitalized on the lucky bounce at the start of the second half, as Grady rambled 55 yards to paydirt on a screen play.

The T’wolves got the ball back just 40 seconds later after Morales buried Modesto receiver Garrett Bidwell in the end zone for a safety.

“I was lined up on the outside of the tackle and I saw him in motion,” Morales said. “I just knew that every time he’s in motion, they’re handing it off to No. 5. I knew it was coming, so I just made the play.”

The defense continued to dominate from there as Sierra outscored Modesto 23-0 in the third quarter. Sophomore linebacker Brock Felt and cornerback Aydan Harris each had an interception in the second half, while defensive end Jesse Flores contributed a sack.

“We gave up four touchdowns to them, and all four of them were long plays,” Harbison said. “We felt that if we can make them have to sustain a drive that we can stop them.”

Sierra outgained the Panthers 496-378 on offensive yards and allowed just 93 in the second half. McCabe finished 18-of-32 passing for 185 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He also rushed four times for 75 yards and two scores. Running back Zion Garan contributed 117 yards and a TD on 12 carries. Bidwell was Modesto’s leading receiver with seven catches and 66 yards. Heston Blom had three receptions, 68 yards and a touchdown.

McCabe came into the game with the most passing yards in the Sac-Joaquin Section, according to stats submitted on MaxPreps. Blom was ranked No. 2 in receiving yards.

Sierra looks to build on its all-around effort later this week as it travels to Merced on Friday to face undefeated Golden Valley. For now, the Timberwolves will bask in their well-earned victory.

“I’m happy for the players,” Harbison said. “They come out every day and work hard. This feels good for them.”