Sierra High advanced in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV opener, edging visiting Union Mine of El Dorado Friday, 24-21.
The No. 3 seeded Timberwolves (6-5 overall) jumped out to an early lead only to survive a scare late in the game.
The No. 6 Diamondbacks (7-4) rallied behind quarterback Brody Pearman, who scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to make the game close.
“Union Mine is a tough team,” said Sierra coach Jeff Harbison, who credited social media fodder instigated by the Diamondbacks for helping his team get off to the quick start.
“Our defense also played strong in that first half,” he added.
The Timberwolves scored on only their second offensive play of the game. Quarterback Mark Vicente found Jimmy Galindo on one-on-one coverage, hitting the 5-foot-11 senior wide receiver Jimmy Galindo in stride for the 65-yard TD.
Sierra’s defense took over from there. After safety Seuseu Alofaituli delivered on a third-down stop, lineman Josh Lee recovered a fumble off a botch snap. “That gave us some momentum,” he said.
The turnover set up Mark Paule’s 6-yard touchdown.
The momentum switched in favor of Union Mine in the second half. Joshua Middleton, a 280-pound nose guard, came up with an interception at mid field. That led to Pearman connecting with Trevor Reed on a 21-yard touchdown. Lee and Jesse Babauta for Sierra converged to block the extra point kick.
The Timberwolves responded with Vicente hitting a series of short passes to Daniel Wyatt, who did the rest from there, gaining 17 and 20 yards. Paule then broke loose for a 33-yard score, going untouched. “Our offensive line did a great job,” he said.
Paule finished with 106 yards on 14 carries.
Marcos Castillo’s PAT kick made it 21-6. But the game was far from over.
“This is the playoffs,” Paule said. “It’s a different animal.”
The Diamondbacks’ offense put the pressure on Sierra in the fourth, with Pearman picking up 17 yards on the ground and connecting with Andrew Vaughn for another 12 yards. Penalties against Sierra also helped their cause.
After his 3-yard TD run, Pearman hit Reed for the two-point conversion.
On Timberwolves’ possession, Vicente broke loose for a 48-yard run to the Union Mine 6. Castillo made it 24-14, connecting on a 26-yard field goal.
Pearman engineered one more drive for the Diamondbacks, hitting passes to Mason McLaury and Zac Cherrigan while scoring from a yard out with time ticking away.
Union Mine tried the onside kick, but the ball sailed out of bound, securing the Timberwolves with final possession.
“We were tired at the end,” said Paule, who also plays safety. “But not as tired (as Union Mine).”
Lee, who is a senior, made the most of his first-ever post season experience by registering several big plays.
“It’s a different experience but it was great playing in front of the home crowd – they got us going,” he said.
Sierra will travel to San Andreas next Friday, taking on No. 2 Calaveras. The Redskins defeated No. 7 Center, 28-7.