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Sierra fine tuned promising passing attack
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Sierra standout Jake Pruitt scans the field during a 7-on-7 passing league matchup against East Union on July 13 at Modesto JCs Pirate Stadium. - photo by JOHN-JOEL GRIFFITHS

It’s no secret Jeff Harbison has built a legitimate football program at Sierra.

Coming off a 10-2 season with a junior-loaded squad and a second-round exit during the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III postseason last year, the Timberwolves aren’t planning on taking any steps backward in 2013-14.

Replacing standout running back Anthony Cota and his 2,225 all-purpose yards will not be easy, but Sierra feels like it has a solid core of returners who will be able to make an impact and pick up right where it left off.

And get better.

“Our goal is to always improve, and we’re deeper in a lot of areas,” coach Harbison said. “It’s going to be tough to replace (Cota), so we’re looking at that this summer. We’ll get a better idea at camp. We’ll just keep plugging away.”

Sierra’s summer has consisted of playing against Enochs Modesto twice in June during 7-on-7 passing league contests. One of the highlights of the Timberwolves’ summer has been winning a passing tournament title hosted by Patterson in early July.

Sierra also competed in its last 7-on-7 passing tournament July 13 at Modesto Junior College’s Pirate Stadium, where they defeated East Union and lost against the same Patterson squad they defeated a week earlier.

 “We beat Patterson for the championship (on July 6),” coach Harbison said. “Other than that it’s just been our regular summer practice routine of Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.”

Sierra’s passing game has looked impressive during passing league so far. Returning senior QB Jake Pruitt has been a leader this summer, not to mention the team’s defensive captain, senior safety Garrett DeVillanueva.

“We lost to Patterson (at Modesto JC),” Pruitt said. “We had a good game, but we were seeing new things and we have to work on some stuff. We saw (Patterson) made some adjustments and guarded the middle well. We made some adjustments too, but we just didn’t execute.

“But we’ve looked good during summer. Passing-wise we look fine, so we’ll see what happens when pads come out.”

Pruitt threw for 1,626 yards last season and had eight TDs. He has been making all the throws during passing leagues with accuracy and while running Sierra’s “spread” offense efficiently.

“We’re hoping for (a break-out year),” coach Harbison said of Pruitt. “He’s showing really good signs right now. He just needs to keep maturing at the position and we expect good things out of him.”

DeVillanueva will be also a returning All-Valley Oak League player who tied for a team-high in interceptions last year with four. He was also one of the team’s leading tacklers with 58 (36 solo).

“I just want to be get better, play better and make my team better,” said DeVillanueva. “It’s all about the team.”

DeVillanueva and Sierra have the right idea.

Coach Harbison consistently emphasizes the term “football intelligence”, and Sierra is more than expected to be in contention for a VOL title. Not to mention Manteca and last season’s state runner-up Oakdale -- the defending league and Sac-Joaquin Section Division III winners.

“Oakdale is the champ, and you have to unseat them,” Harbison concluded. “We were junior heavy last year, and now these guys have a better understanding of what we’re trying to do and what we’re trying to accomplish. They get what the coaches are preaching and they’re passing it on to the juniors.”

Last year Sierra finished 6-1 in the VOL and only lost to Oakdale. The Timberwolves’ only other loss was in the postseason against Inderkum, who bounced Manteca the week prior. Inderkum lost in the section tournament’s semifinal against Vista del Lago, who lost 22-9 against Oakdale for the section title.

Sierra will open up its season with Tracy on the road on Aug. 30, followed by a road game against Davis Modesto and then at home against Chavez Stockton, who replaced Laguna Creek Elk Grove on the schedule.

The T’Wolves are slated to open up VOL play on Sep. 27, at Daniel Teicheira Stadium.

To contact John-Joel Griffiths, e-mail