STOCKTON – One suffered a flat last week, stalling out in Modesto. The other has taken a while to warm up.
Yes, the Weston Ranch and Lathrop football teams sputter into their annual rivalry game, the Battle of I-5.
The Cougars were overwhelmed by Grace Davis, 52-20, losing decidedly in every phase of the game in their final tune-up for Friday’s Valley Oak League opener.
The Spartans scored the first 27 points and took advantage of six turnovers, including four fumbles.
Weston Ranch limps into Valley Oak League play 1-2, with losses to unbeaten Grace Davis (4-0) and Edison (1-2). The Cougars’ only win was a 33-20 triumph at Galt.
“Our preseason stretch was a little different,” Weston Ranch second-year coach Seth Davis said. “Taking a step back and looking at it, I think it was tougher than a preseason schedule than we had last year.”
Still, Davis believes his team should have fared better. Mental mistakes continue to dog a program that hasn’t had a winning season since earning a share of the league championship in 2005.
“Obviously, it was a missed opportunity. You want to try to go into league with a winning record versus where we’re at now at 1-2,” he added. “At the same time, it’s better to lose early and then hopefully get some fire into these guys going into (Friday).”
History favors the Cougars, who lead the all-time series 5-0 and won the inaugural Battle of I-5 game last fall, 35-29. The Spartans had a chance to win the game in the final seconds, but a throw into the end zone for tight end Nathan Ogunbanwo was off the mark.
Lathrop (1-2) will have had two weeks to lick its wounds following a 45-25 loss to Ripon on Sept. 12.
The Spartans were beaten off the starting line by the Indians, who sprinted out to a 24-6 lead. Lathrop closed the gap to 24-19 on the opening drive of the second half, but couldn’t complete the comeback.
The game will feature two of the top receivers in the area in Weston Ranch’s Marque Watson and Lathrop’s Reggie Carter Jr.
Watson has touchdown receptions in each of his last two games, including two against Grace Davis, while Carter had three scoring grabs in the loss to Ripon.
Sierra (3-0) at Kimball (1-2)
Put the groundskeeper on alert, the scoreboard at Don Nicholson Stadium may need a few more light bulbs by night’s end.
The super-charged Sierra Timberwolves could be staring down another blowout victory.
Kimball (1-2) had major issues tackling the running back in a shutout loss to city rival Tracy last week, and that could spell doom for the Jaguars in their VOL opener against one of the state’s best offenses.
The Timberwolves have won their first three games in such a convincing fashion that it would appear no school record is safe. Sierra has outscored its opponents 173-31.
Junior running back Mark Paule Jr. leads all of California in scoring with 16 touchdowns, and he ranks 11th in yards per game at 220.
With 660 yards, Paule has nearly matched Sierra’s top rusher in 2013 (Reid Maestas, 695 yards) in eight fewer games and he could be in for another field day against the Jaguars.
Kimball was gashed for 295 rushing yards by the Bulldogs, whose line would get lost in the shadow of Sierra’s. Paule runs behind a massive wall of blockers, anchored by 300-pound tackles Joshua Fala and Jacob Gullett. By comparison, Kimball doesn’t field a single player heavier than 270 pounds.
East Union (1-2) at Oakdale (3-0)
East Union was on the right track in last week’s loss. The Lancers took a 7-0 lead into the intermission by limiting Gregori to three first-half drives.
Things changed after halftime, though. Gregori ran off 42 straight points, including 28 in the third quarter.
Oakdale is just as explosive, as witnessed by its 47-7 victory at Reno McQueen, and has had two weeks to prepare for this matchup.
If East Union is going to shock the ‘Stangs, sophomore quarterback Jack Weaver and the Wing offense will need to sustain – and finish – drives.
Ripon (1-3) at Sutter (4-0)
The Indians’ thorny non-league schedule finally draws to a close with its toughest challenge yet: a 115-mile trip to Sutter to face the Northern Section’s top-ranked team.