Sierra Drops Heart breaker to San Mateo

Sierra vs. San Mateo
Photo by Dave Lawicka
Sierra vs. San Mateo Photo by Dave Lawicka

In one of the most exciting—and heartbreaking—football games in Sierra history, the Wolverines lost a cliff-hanger to the nation's 15th-ranked team Saturday at Buzz Ostrom Stadium in Rocklin.

It all came down to a 21 yard field goal attempt with :08 remaining in the game. Sierra was poised to kick a chip shot to beat College of San Mateo, but the kick never happened as the snap and hold were botched and the Wolverines lost a thriller, 37-36.

San Mateo scored with seven minutes left in the game to take the one-point lead. Then with 2:05 remaining, the Wolverines ran their hurry-up offense to perfection, getting to the San Mateo four-yard line before the ill-fated field goal attempt.

Despite the loss, the game was exciting from start to finish. Defensive stops, long plays by game-breaking wide receivers, and four scoring plays of 68-yards or more highlighted an eventful afternoon of football. There were four lead changes and one tie score.

"It was a great game and our guys battled hard," said Sierra head coach Ben Noonan. "It was not our intention just to play a close game, it was our intention to win so we're disappointed."

For Sierra, wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk was electric. He scored three touchdowns, two on passes from Joe Curry and also ran a punt back 80 yards for a touchdown. He had another sensational one-handed catch at the one yard line.

Curry was on in relief of starting quarterback Justus Spillner who was injured early in the game. Curry completed 18 of 30 passes for 252 yards and the two touchdowns to Aiyuk. Ryan Graham (Lincoln High) scored on a 29 yard run to put the Wolverines up 36-31 on the first play of the fourth quarter.

San Mateo's Rajae Johnson was equally impressive with several long gainers, including 79-yard scamper which put the Bulldogs up 10-7 early in the second period.

Sierra's defense was stellar against one of the better running teams in the country, holding them to 113 yards on the ground. They also sacked San Mateo quarterback Kamilii Akina five times, three by Felipe Chambers and one by Woodcreek high grad Brian Lee. Chambers also picked off an Akina pass in Bulldog territory to set up a Sierra touchdown.

Our defense stuffed the run when you do that you put your cornerbacks out on an island and that can lead to some big plays," Noonan said. "Unfortunately it came down to executing on a short field goal attempt for the win, and we didn't get it done. But these guys battled, we are much improved and we can build on this one."

Sierra travels to Contra Costa College next Saturday.

- Pete Dufour, Placer Herald