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Sierra wins state championship
Sierra High senior Enrique Jasso (7) holds the California Interscholastic Federation state trophy as the Timberwolves celebrate winning the Division IV-A final 20-15 over host Chowchilla Saturday to bring a state football championship to Manteca for the first time in history. - photo by HIME ROMERO/ The Bulletin

CHOWCHILLA – Attention Hollywood screenwriters. 

Looking for a new high school football movie script that encapsulates the essence of teamwork, perseverance and heart?

Does it need to include elements of overcoming odds in the face of foes looking to denigrate every achievement you’ve made?

Allow me to introduce you to the Sierra High School Timberwolves – also known as the 2015 CIF Division IV-A state football champions. 

Their story has all of that and more. 

By now it’s common knowledge that Sierra – who had to overcome a two-touchdown deficit in order to qualify for the CIF Sac-Joaquin section playoffs – hoisted the California trophy over their heads in Chowchilla on Saturday night after coming from behind with less than two minutes left to beat a team that only had two losses all year. 

But don’t listen to the naysayers who say that this story isn’t worth the Hollywood treatment. That it somehow doesn’t truly reflect the idea of a underdog rolling through opponents with a sense of brotherhood and unity, fueled by the negativity coming their way. 

Just look at the stories of the people who came together to make the historic achievement possible. 

How great would it be to film the relatively small-town mayor coming out to offer an inspirational speech to the team while gathering for a team breakfast at a pizzeria that has long been a hangout for youth sports franchises for everything from post-game meals to awards banquets?

While the subject may be oversaturated with nostalgic throwback scenes aplenty, there’s something that’s poetic about a quiet, selfless quarterback stepping onto the field in his first varsity season and leading a team all the way to the state title with both his legs and his arm and his unrelenting never-give-up attitude. 

You’ll find that in Mark Vicente – the aw-shucks kid that threw a pass across the middle that put the City of Manteca on the football map, relatively speaking, and forced everybody to realize the gauntlet that the Valley Oak League has become in the last decade. 

How about the soccer player that never played football but got recruited by the head coach to come out based on his size, strength and athletic ability and became a defensive star on a unit that didn’t allow a touchdown in the two biggest games leading up to the ultimate stage and made plays befitting a four-year starter when it mattered most?

Does it help to know that his father attended Sierra too – linking that “legacy” thing that everybody is always talking about?

Allow me to introduce you to Josh Lee. He caught the eye of Jeff Harbison in the offseason who kept reminding the young man that he was being watched wherever he went with the hopes that he’d don the uniform and join a squad that would prove every one of their doubters wrong. 

Does it get any better than watching a senior, in his first year of football, wipe streaming tears away from his eyes as he tries to make sense of the accomplishment unfolding all around him? Just listen to these quotes:

“At the beginning of the season nobody really had faith in me,” Lee said, wiping away the aforementioned tears. “I wasn’t coordinated like everyone else. I used that as motivation to keep going. Coach Silva and Coach Panigada, they kept on me because they knew I had potential even though I didn’t think I could cut it. But I did.”

And we all know that everybody loves the gentle giant – the “man” on a field of boys that can use his size and strength to outmuscle anybody around him. 

You’ve got that in Josh Fala – the big No. 59 that towers over everybody around him. 

When it was all said and done, though, Fala wasn’t dancing across the field like his teammates or sliding in the mud. He was taking a moment of quiet reflection to appreciate the magnitude of the accomplishment and everything that went into it. 

Whenever something good happens, it’s always talked about how it could become a Hollywood movie.

Well, this is a movie if I’ve ever seen one (and trust me, I’ve seen a lot). 

So call your financiers and line up a director and head straight to Manteca, California. 

The CIF Division IV State Champions will be waiting for you at 1700 Thomas Street.

And they’re even more impressive when you see them in person.


To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.