At one point in the 2010 season Sierra High stood with a dismal 2-4 record and its postseason hopes were fading fast. The Timberwolves would get it going, running the table and landing a postseason berth. This season, Sierra is hoping to get it going right from the start.
Several key components from that Sierra squad are gone and the Timberwolves will be depending on some new faces. Sure, the team will have some familiar returners, but even with the similarities this is a new group for Sierra football.
“I think that it’s all the same,” Sierra head coach Jeff Harbison said of the two seasons. “We are in a very similar situation that we were in last year; we’re a young team again this year, but all teams are young. It is not about rebuilding, it’s about reloading, and that is basically where we are.
“We’ve seen we have quick learners on the team and things are starting to come together.”
Sierra will open the season with back-to-back home games against Enochs and Grace Davis before closing out the non-league schedule with a trip to Elk Grove to take on Laguna Creek. The Timberwolves will need a stern test through its preseason schedule, because they Valley Oak League season opens with a challenge.
“That’s why we schedule the non-league schedule that we do,” Harbison said. “We always try and schedule up, it helps prepare our players for what’s going on in the VOL. Week 1 in the VOL is Oakdale, and so right away it’s on.
“The Valley Oak League is a grind; you know it’s going to be a battle in our league.”
Sierra will lean on the talents of second-year junior running back Anthony Cota, who was all-VOL first team in 2010. He will likely be the key focal point for senior quarterback Tony Perera.
“I think our run game is strong with Anthony Cota and a sophomore, Josh Reed,” Harbison said. “The running game will definitely be a strength of ours with Cota and Reed. We’ll have to be able to get some yardage through the air, but our strength will definitely be on the ground.”
The demands the Timberwolves place on their quarterback will be stiff. Last year, all-VOL second team quarterback Adrian Valencia excelled through the air and on the ground, and Sierra will expect a similar effort from Perera.
“Tony has done a great job this summer,” Sierra offensive coordinator Jeff Abrew said. “He has worked really hard and has gotten a lot better. He’s out here seeing the field, he’s making the right reads, and he really has an understanding of what we want him to do with our offense. He understands we’re going to need balance.
“He’s going to have to be able to pass the ball as well as run it.”
Sierra suits up the most players the team has seen in Harbison’s seven-year tenure. Each level of the program is flourishing in numbers, with the varsity club forced to trim its roster. Defensively, the Timberwolves have welcomed some of the new players and the manner in which they play.
“We had a real good practice recently and there was really some hitting going on,” Harbison said. “It was nice to see. We have a couple of players in the defensive backfield that are head hunting. Again, that’s nice to see.
“It’s good to see that aggression coming out this early on.”
Sierra has grown accustomed to making an appearance in the Sac-Joaquin Section postseason. Harbison is going on his 12th season coaching at the high school level, but feels his expectations on the season do not hold too much merit.
He feels there is another collective opinion that has a more direct pulse of the team.
“I think the more important thing is what are the expectations that the players have,” Harbison said moments before lofting the question to his players just standing to the rear in ear shot. In unison, some 20 to 30 players screamed out their aspirations loud enough so that the point couldn’t be missed.