The only thing that could slow down Anthony Cota, Sierra High’s dynamic running back, in Friday’s Valley Oak League contest with visiting Sonora was a momentary bout with a stomach illness.
After barreling his way into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter, Cota hobbled toward the sideline and out it came. He didn’t have a carry for the remainder of the half.
“I was just tired,” Cota said with a smile after the Timberwolves held on for a 47-42 victory. “I’m fine.”
He is now the new single-game rushing leader for the VOL’s second-place squad (4-1, 7-1 overall).
Cota’s 361 yards is unofficially the new standard, shattering Jarrod Daniels’ total of 296 set in a second-round playoff game against Benicia on Nov. 27, 2009.
Earlier this season, Cota broke the program’s single-game touchdown record with seven. On Friday, he added four touchdowns on 37 carries, running his season long total to 32 (including one TD reception). Cota is closing in on Daniels’ single-season record of 33 TDs and has two regular-season games plus the playoffs to eclipse that mark.
He, of course, got some help.
“It was tremendous,” Cota said of the offensive line’s dominance. “I wouldn’t have that many rushing yards without them. They made the holes and it’s not hard to run through them.”
He was also running through Wildcats, so he deserves some of the credit. Cota showed impressive burst during his 66-yard touchdown jaunt that tied the game at 7-7 with 7:33 left in the first quarter, and he made the Sonora defense work hard to bring him down for the rest of the night.
Also helping his cause was the breakout effort of junior quarterback Jake Pruitt, who completed 18 of 24 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns He hit five different receivers and didn’t throw a pick.
Bryson Sanders (4 catches, 81 yards) was on the receiving end of a 67-yard pass play that widened Sierra’s late lead to 47-28 with 6:11 to go. Dakota Conners (6 receptions, 69 yards) and Jordan Lewis (4 receptions, 77 yards, TD) were also instrumental in the passing game.
Sierra racked up 652 yards of offense.
“My receivers were making big plays,” Pruitt said. “Not all of the balls were perfect but they made the plays when we needed them.”
Sonora (2-3, 3-5), which had its postseason hopes dim with Friday’s defeat, managed to make it a game late. The Wildcats trailed 28-14 at halftime but had two late second-quarter drives stall in the red zone.
They closed in late with a 26-yard toss from Casey Holman to Kade Barajas, and after recovering a Sierra fumble on the second play of the ensuing drive Sonora was in business.
Punishing fullback Brandon Camara (nine rushes, 75 yards) pounded in a 1-yard touchdown, and Sean Adams’ kick capped the final score with 2:10 remaining. Sonora attempted an onside kick that was recovered by Sierra’s Hunter Peterson.
The Timberwolves used eight plays — one being a 46-yard TD run from Cota that was negated by a holding penalty — to run down the clock and escape with the win.
“It was a complete team victory,” said Sierra coach Jeff Harbison. “We had to do it with all three teams (offensive, defense, special teams) tonight.”
Holman passed for 122 yards and two TDs while rushing 17 times for 148 yards and a score. Sonora amassed 454 yards but was done in by five fumbles, three of which were lost. Guillermo Nunez forced a fumble, and recoveries came from Nchekube Uwakwe, Garrett DeVillanueva and Justin DeHart.
Sierra wraps up the regular season at Lathrop and Weston Ranch over the next two weeks and can clinch an automatic berth to the Sac-Joaquin Section by winning out.