The remaining undefeated team among Manteca Unified schools welcomes the only one still seeking its first win of the season Friday at Sierra's Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium.
The Timberwolves (3-0) are riding a three-game winning streak highlighted by their 45-12 Week 2 blowout of Pacheco, the reigning Western Athletic Conference tri-champion that ended their season in the 2018 playoffs.
Winless Lathrop (0-2) visits Sierra as it prepares for its second march through the WAC. The T'wolves lead 7-3 in this all-time rivalry series, snapping a three-year skid last season with a 19-7 victory at Bennie Gatto Field.
Sierra is much improved since last facing the Spartans and returns the bulk of its talent led by middle linebacker Holden Fishburn, who also keys the bruising offensive line.
Second-year junior running back Kimoni Stanley is averaging 13.6 yards per carry (503 on 37 attempts) and already has 10 touchdowns — not counting the 80-yard pick-six at Pacheco last week.
Slotback/linebacker Matt Dunham missed last year's game at Lathrop with an ankle injury but has emerged as another threat in the flexbone offense. He found the end zone three times against Pacheco, twice on receptions, leads the team with six catches for 116 yards.
Quarterback Shane Johnson has been the biggest revelation for the Timberwolves, and he's doing it on both sides of the ball. He has completed 12 of 16 passes for 218 yards a three touchdowns — after completing 14 all of last year — and is a threat as a runner (12 rushes, 118 yards, two TDs) in the triple-option attack. On defense, where he plays free safety, Johnson is tied with Fishburn for the team lead with 23 tackles to go with an interception.
Sierra begins Valley Oak League play next week against Kimball is looks to go 4-0 for the first time since winning its first eight in 2014.
Lathrop had a chance to recharge with its bye week following two tough losses but will be without head coach Joe Pirillo. He was ejected in the Spartans' 32-16 Week 1 loss to Kimball, which took advantage of mistakes to break away with 24 points in the final quarter. In the prior week, they were shelled 64-6 by VOL contending Manteca.
The good news for Lathrop is it has a developing air assault headed by proven senior transfer Davis Raya-Ruiz. He has a good connection with receivers Joey Sanchis and sophomore Jason Seabron Jr., and junior Isaac Ramos returns at running back to provide balance in the spread offense.
More good news: The schedule gets easier for the rest of the regular season. The WAC's three champions — Los Banos, Mountain House and Pacheco — combine for a 1-6 record. Meanwhile, Grace Davis, which missed the postseason last year, is off to a perfect start through three games.
Here's a closer look at other Week 3 contests:
Johansen at East Union: After outscoring Mountain House and Bear Creek 100-0 on the road the past two weeks, the Lancers (2-1) return to Dino Cunial Field where they'll take on a confident Johansen team.
The two teams reunite after meeting four consecutive years from 2014-17 — East Union won them all. Johansen coach Scott Sacuskie previously taught and coached at EU and has the Vikings (2-0) headed in a positive direction after going 3-7 last year. That marked the first time since 2011 that they won more than one game in a season.
Manteca at Tracy: Roles are reversed Friday when these two traditional rivals rumble at Wayne Schneider Stadium.
Last year, Tracy entered Buffalo territory having won two of its first three contests while the home team smarted from back-to-back losses. Manteca shocked the visitors, 54-18.
Now, it’s the Bulldogs (1-2) hoping to rebound from successive losses against Turlock and Buhach Colony while the Buffs (2-1) aim to build off their 50-0 drubbing of Granada. Tracy features NCAA Division I commits in quarterback Logan Fife (Cal Poly) and receiver Trevor Pope (Oregon State).
Buhach Colony at Weston Ranch: The Cougars (1-1) celebrated an 18-0 win over Franklin in their home opener last week, when they also unveiled their renovated stadium.
They remain home for the rest of the month but are pitted against two high-caliber opponents. Before opening VOL play on Sept. 27 against Oakdale, Weston Ranch takes on upstart Buhach Colony (3-0).
The Thunder from Merced already has three quality wins under its belt, toppling Gregori, Tracy and Edison. Trey Paster, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound cornerback/receiver, has committed to Cal.
Ripon at Calaveras: Ripon takes its paper-thin roster and perfect 4-0 record to Frank Meyer Field in San Andreas.
Calaveras has dropped four straight to the Indians but nearly came away with an upset last season, battling to a 24-21 defeat. Calaveras met two other Trans-Valley League teams to start its season, falling to Escalon 24-7 while thumping Modesto Christian, 42-8.
Converted wide out Nolan Dart has taken over at QB for first-year Calaveras head coach Doug Clark. Junior Clayton Moore, the team’s top rusher last year, also returns.