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TWolves prove they are here to stay
Sierra High quarterback Adrian Valencia covers the ball before contact during the Timberwolves’ season-ending loss to the Del Campo Cougars. - photo by HIME ROMERO
FAIR OAKS — There weren’t a whole lot of smiles in the congregation that formed around the end zone following Sierra’s 39-10 loss to Del Campo at Cougar Canyon Friday.

But that was in no way representative of Sierra’s establishment as a force to be reckoned with in the Valley Oak League, evident by its deep run in the Sac-Joaquin Division III playoffs that ended at the hands of a team that might end up raising a blue section championship banner a week from now.

And while graduation will likely take it’s toll – including the loss of team-leader Jarrod Daniels, who showed his value by breaking a 65-yard touchdown run from scrimmage to open the game – the Sierra football program as a whole has finally started putting all of the pieces together.

After having a freshman program finishing the season with a 7-2 record, the sophomore squad wrapped up its year with an 8-2 mark and share of the VOL title. Several sophomores were called up to the varsity team’s playoff run.

 With the section’s new 16-team playoff bracket, Sierra was forced to play teams that it would have never otherwise crossed paths with in recent years, squads like the Benicia Panthers that dropped a 40-39 heartbreaker to the Timberwolves in the second round.

Those are the sorts of things that happen when you have a program with a 24-6 overall record.

When it comes to the future, there isn’t a whole lot that Sierra doesn’t have to look forward to thanks to a young squad that boasts players like junior quarterback Adrian Valencia – who scrambled for more than 200 yards after starting senior Jonathan Davis went down with an ankle injury early in the Benicia game.

 “We’ve got a young team and a lot of guys that are stepping up and doing what needs to be done, and that’s something that we’re going to have to continue doing next year,” Valencia said. “We’ve got a great sophomore team coming up, and we’re going to have to work to achieve what we accomplished this year.”

On the defensive side of the ball, Alex Nuanez cut his teeth early when head coach Jeff Harbison and staff called him up as a sophomore last year in order to give him the experience at nose guard and linebacker they thought would pay off in the future.

With blood trickling down his lip, Nuanez was candid about what the team has to do in the offseason and the roles that the incoming seniors need to take if the Sierra program is to continue its streak of playoff appearances.

“What it takes to get to this point is to keep building, and that’s what we’ve done,” Nuanez said. “We worked hard to get here and unfortunately we came up a little bit short. But this is still a young program with a bright future, and there is a lot that we can still accomplish.”

Back before Sierra lost its first and only VOL game of the season, I stood near the scoreboard of Sonora’s Dunlavy Field and chatted briefly with Sierra Athletic Director Greg Leland, commenting about the mystique of the famed stadium and the potential that the team has for the season.

And in that brief conversation he said something that stuck with me for the entire season, even after suffering its only other loss, 17-7, of the season to Sonora.

“I told (head coach) Jeff (Harbison) that there are still three monkeys on the back of this program – beating Sonora at Sonora, winning a league championship, and beating Oakdale,” Leland said.
Well, two out of three ain’t bad.

Even though it’ll be another two years before they get a shot at the boys in green and gold, it’s impossible to argue that the Timberwolves have firmly placed themselves on the football map, and they don’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Maybe dusting off that place in the rafters might not be a bad idea.

Hanging that banner looks like it might happen soon rather than later.