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Sierra survives second-half scare
Davis makes it a game after falling 24-0 by half
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MODESTO — Sierra was in no celebratory mood on a muggy Thursday night following a 38-28 win over Grace Davis at Downey High’s Chuck Hughes Stadium.

The reaction was more like a sigh of relief mixed with extreme disappointment.

That’s because for the second straight week the Timberwolves (1-1) were outplayed in the second half. Only this time, a dominant first-half effort that produced a 24-0 halftime advantage was enough to overcome the late sloppiness. Sierra outgained Davis 313 yards to 67 over the first two quarters.

Last week, Sierra blew a 25-14 halftime lead against Enochs and lost, 35-25.

“Tonight, we just had too many mental and physical breakdowns, especially in the second half,” Sierra coach Jeff Harbison said. “We can’t come out and give up that many points in the second half against good teams like Granada and Oakdale (Sierra’s next two opponents).”

While Davis’ passing attack struggled (4-of-11, 50 yards) throughout, it was its running game and Sierra’s three second-half turnovers — one on an onside kick — that kept the Spartans in it.
Davis (0-2) found a soft spot in the middle of the Sierra defense in the second quarter and continued to pound away for the remainder of the contest.

Sophomore Ray Vega rushed for 106 of his 133 yards in the second half, and his 69-yard touchdown run with 3:54 left in the third represented Davis’ first points of the season after getting shutout 35-0 last week against Patterson. Vega ended up scoring twice.

Davis made its share of mistakes in the second half. Its first drive stalled on the Sierra 2, and Vega had a 31-yard touchdown run called back because of a penalty.

Sierra had a chance to ice it with over 2 minutes remaining after Julius Muniz recovered a fumble forced by Anthony Cota.

But on the third play of Sierra’s next drive, quarterback Adrian Valencia fumbled the exchange to Cota, and Davis lineman Nicholas Craig scooped it up and ran it back 56 yards to cap the final score.

“The line was blocking perfectly all night,” Valencia said. “They were doing a great job, but the rest of us need to step it up in the second half. We have to play four full four quarters.”

Then there were the drive-killing penalties, especially in the first half when Sierra could have padded its early lead. Sierra was flagged for six infractions for 62 yards overall. The T’Wolves also struggled on conversion attempts for a second straight week, going 2-for-6.

With victories come positives, however.

Valencia was supremely effective with short tosses, nickel and diming his way to 270 yards and two touchdowns on 16-of-19 passing. He hit seven different receivers.

His best pass was a 15-yarder to Ruben Lopez on a fade pattern for a score midway through the second quarter, and on the first play of the Timberwolves’ next drive Harold Wright turned a screen pass into a 69-yard touchdown to make it 18-0.

Valencia later ran in a 2-yard score 1 minute, 44 seconds before the break.

In addition, Cota, a sophomore making his varsity debut, gave Sierra a dimension it didn’t have last week with his powerful running style. He missed the zero-week contest because his transfer from Manteca High had not been cleared by the Sac-Joaquin Section.

Cota hammered out 87 yards on 11 rushes, and he displayed his breakaway ability with a 74-yard catch-and-run touchdown off a screen pass 14 seconds into the fourth quarter.

Senior running back Aaron Manuta was the workhorse, as he piled up 114 yards and two scores on 19 attempts.

“Cota is a really good running back and it was nice having him,” Manuta said. “He can just come in and do work. It’s a good one-two punch.”