East Union has won three games for the first time under fourth-year football coach Willie Herrera.
More importantly, with three games left on the schedule, the Lancers are part of “the postseason discussion” for the first time since the last coaching regime.
East Union (2-2, 3-4) dispatched Lathrop on Friday, 28-21, in a game Herrera billed as his team’s Super Bowl.
It’s safe to say that everyone close to the Lancers football program is “super” excited about the course Herrera has set, even as injuries continue decimate their rosters.
Dwindling numbers forced Herrera to shuffle players across all three levels, and that includes elevating 13 sophomores to varsity.
Nine of those underclassmen started Friday’s victory – five on defense and four on offense.
“It’s great for the morale and confidence of our young guys,” Herrera said. “Our seniors like having them, but the sophomores practice like maniacs anyways.”
With Friday’s win, the Lancers remain in the hunt for a postseason berth. To get there, though, East Union will have to achieve another first in the Herrera era: a winning streak.
East Union travels to Sierra on Friday and then closes the season with home games against Weston Ranch (Oct. 31) and Manteca (Nov. 7).
A little more perspective on East Union’s renaissance: Three of its four losses this season have been to teams ranked in the Sac-Joaquin Section’s top-60: Oakdale (No. 16), Central Catholic (23) and Gregori (58).
The other – No. 72 Grace Davis – started the season with four consecutive wins.
JUMBO PACKAGE – It’s a short-yardage formation that is going a long way toward Sierra’s success.
The Timberwolves went to their “jumbo” package nine times in Friday’s 31-20 victory over Oakdale, producing two touchdowns, two first downs and 25 yards for a total of five positive plays. When Sierra (4-0 VOL, 7-0 overall) needed to convert a fourth-and-1 from its own 27 with four minutes to go, coach Jeff Harbison trotted out his big boys.
In the “jumbo,” the Timberwolves go without a quarterback, per se. Running back Mark Paule Jr. takes a direct snap and follows a pair of fullbacks through a hole.
Paule took the direct snap and burrowed forward for 3 yards. Two plays later, the slippery junior bolted 66 yards to the Oakdale 3.
The “jumbo” package failed twice to capitalize near the goal line, but Sierra finished the drive – and the Mustangs – with a 6-yard pass.
“Every time they went for a fourth down I think they got it. I knew as soon as they called timeout they were going for it. We just didn’t stop them all night long in situations like that,” Oakdale coach Trent Merzon said. “We had trouble moving the ball consistently on offense and they beat us on both sides of the ball tonight.”
SIERRA CLIMBS – Sierra’s win over Oakdale was guaranteed to shake up the state bowl rankings.
The Timberwolves moved up four spots to No. 4 in MaxPreps’ Division II North rankings, leapfrogging Oakdale.
The Mustangs dropped from seventh to ninth. Central Catholic is No. 2 in the Division IV poll.
THROWING TO TIJERO – Ronaldo Tijero made The Bulletin’s Preseason All-Area watch list as a cornerback, but the Manteca junior has emerged as an offensive threat.
The 5-foot-11 wide receiver has been quarterback Dakarai Charles’ favorite target, hauling in four of his seven touchdown passes.
The two connected on a 26-yard scoring play in Friday’s 55-7 win at Kimball. Tijero led Manteca in catches (13) and yards (173) going into Friday’s game.
HEART AND SOUL – Ripon might have a run-first, run-second type of offense, but that doesn’t diminish the value of second-year quarterback Nick Price.
Ripon coach Chris Johnson called the junior “the heart and soul” of his team. “He does a great job of running our offense.”
In Friday’s 52-6 win over Riverbank, Price was 7 of 11 for 105 yards and managed the run game to near perfection. The Indians rushed 34 times for 277 yards and seven touchdowns.
PARTY LIKE IT’S ’74 – If you were a player or coach with East Union’s 1974 varsity football team, the school would like to invite you to a celebration on Friday, Oct. 31, at Dino Cunial Field. East Union will honor the Valley Oak League champions – and only team in school history to finish the regular season undefeated – prior to the varsity game against Weston Ranch. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Please RSVP with head coach Willie Herrera at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact Managing Editor James Burns email email@example.com or call 209.249.3542.