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Sierra topples Lathrop to stay in playoff hunt
Sierra High’s Adrian Valencia had another impressive outing for the Timberwolves, tossing a pair of touchdowns in their VOL win over Lathrop High Friday. - photo by Wayne Thallander
LATHROP — Trailing by two touchdowns with less than a minute remaining in the first half, Lathrop had an opportunity from the Sierra High 15-yard-line to pull within a score, but that opportunity passed by and so did the Spartans chance at victory in a 49-7 blowout.

Sierra (4-2 Valley Oak League, 5-4 overall) did not open the game rolling on all cylinders, missing a 32-yard field goal on its first drive before scoring in its ensuing possession on a Anthony Cota 9-yard score.

The Spartans’ ineffectiveness on offense put their defense in compromising positions, fumbling in their first drive and going three-and-out on the following. With multiple opportunities, it was only a matter of time before Sierra got clicking, and it didn’t take long.

Quarterback Adrian Valencia found Cota for the first score and then added touchdown tosses to Harold Wright and Grant Widmer, with Widmer’s coming on a 27-yard strike to end the first half.

“We had a lot of mistakes and a lot of penalties in that first half that we need to clear up, but it was still a great victory for us,” Sierra head coach Jeff Harbison said. “It’s great anytime when you can get all of your players in the game.

“And we were able to do that the entire second-half.”

The sluggish start for the Timberwolves gave Lathrop its best shot at getting anything going offensively, but Lathrop was only able to turn one short-field possession into points. Quarterback Elijah Cash went up top and Andrew Aquino hauled in a tipped pass and raced 42 yards for their lose score.

Lathrop would make a couple return trips to the Sierra red-zone, but an interception, a fumble and a stop on downs would eliminate its scoring chances.

“We had a play down there to the tight end and he was sick to his stomach that he missed it,” Lathrop head coach Jessie Rodriguez said of a blown scoring chance. “But that is just the way it goes.

“Sierra played a good game; we moved the ball a little bit like we’ve done all year, but we just couldn’t finish.”

After Widmer’s touchdown to close the first half, Lathrop came out defeated, fumbling away the opening second half kickoff and then surrendering a score to Sierra just 90-seconds later. Sierra would add two scores after inheriting great field position the next two possessions from Lathrop turnovers.

Sierra’s Valencia finished 9-for-14, two TDs and 226 yards in the first half alone. Widmer was his primary target with four catches for 108 yards.

“We were really able to pass the ball and run the ball,” Widmer said. “We have such a good line they open things up. The defense did well stopping them and forcing turnovers, giving us opportunities to score.

“And Adrian was great; he did a good job of getting the ball where he needed to.”

Sierra will try and close out the VOL season with a victory over Weston Ranch. A victory would likely land the Timberwolves a playoff berth. The 2009 season only saw one team with six wins on the season left without an invitation.

Lathrop will try and rebound with a strong showing in Tracy against the Kimball Jaguars. Both clubs go into the finale without a league win, giving both squads ample motivation.

“I think we played alright (tonight), but we didn’t play our best at all,” Cash said. “Sierra is a really good team, but we’re a good team too, we just keep shooting ourselves in the foot.

“It’s very important for us to finish out with a win; people say to just have fun, but it (stinks) losing.”