Story by Pete Dufour/Auburn Journal
Early in the game against the College of the Sequoias, Sierra College Wolverines repeatedly found themselves with poor field position and an inability to run the football. Add in a bad snap over the punter's head and some false starts…what's a coach to do? Sierra coach Ben Noonan called on the tenacious Wolverine defense to create more stops, called for a flea-flicker touchdown play, and rolled out a Meatball near the goal line.
Sierra beat the COS Giants using all those ingredients and more in front of a sun-drenched crowd at Buzz Ostrom stadium Saturday. The defensive unit, which features seven players who could potentially blitz on any given play, surprised the Giants with five sacks and three interceptions—two by William Brocchini—and led the Wolverines to a 28-14 win.
COS rushed 31 times for just 81 yards thanks to a tenacious front four and two former Placer High inside linebackers, Caleb Mitchell and Waylon Cozad, who combined for 11 tackles with Mitchell forcing a fumble and Cozad adding a sack.
"We just disguise what we do real well and it makes it hard for the other team to scheme against us," said Cozad who also had two tackles for loss. "We're building a bond on this team. I love these guys…we're brothers."
"Our defense just keeps getting better," Noonan said. "We made some mistakes on offense and special teams, but (quarterback) Joe Curry turned in a gutsy performance, taking some hits but getting more comfortable in the pocket."
Curry, who was injured early in last week's game, came back to throw for 247 yards, completing 20 of 34 passes with no interceptions.
The freshman signal-caller was on the money with highlight reel wideout Brandon Aiyuk for a 47-yard touchdown pass that tied the game late in the first quarter. On their next possession in the red zone, Noonan called an end around pass play. Curry rolled left, flipped the ball to Draysean Hudson running right. Hudson then threw a strike to Aiyuk in the back of the end zone for a five-yard touchdown.
Hudson himself would score on a 15-yard pass from Curry in the third quarter as the high powered Air Raid Offense finally got untracked in the second half.
Then, in the fourth quarter, there was the Meatball play.
After punter Aaron Peart pinned the Giants inside their one yard line with one of several great coffin-corner punts on the day, defensive back Cheapell Jones-Morris picked off COS quarterback Nolan LeForge's pass at the 10-yard line and his return set the Wolverines up first and goal at the three.
Enter a 5-11, 250 lb. defensive lineman wearing No. 90. Morgan Rein-Robinson—affectionately known as "Meatball" while playing running back at Placer—entered the game at fullback, a position Sierra does not utilize except for extra blockers on short yardage situations. But instead of blocking, Rein-Robinson drifted out to the flat and caught a pass from Curry, crossing he goal line untouched as the Sierra bench erupted.
"We practice that play every day," Rein-Robinson said. "When coach called my name, I was ready to go. It definitely felt good to be back in the end zone again like in my Placer days."
Sierra needed its passing game to click in the second half because the Giants did a great job of stuffing the Wolverine run game. Sierra netted just 11 yards on 33 rushing attempts. Aiyuk, who is attracting division I offers, caught 10 passes for 110 yards, and Hudson snagged five for 98 yards. Peart was also good on all four PAT kicks.
LeForge completed just 14 of 34 passes for 179 yards but scored himself on a four-yard run in the first quarter. He tossed a 23-yard touchdown pass to Sergio Pena against Sierra's second string with a minute to go in the game. LeForge's favorite target was Blake Wells, who caught seven passes for 132 yards. COS running back Dvonte Crandle led all rushers with 84 yards on 11 carries.
With the win, Sierra moves to 2-2 on the year and travels to Santa Rosa Saturday before their bye week. Sierra's next home game is Oct. 14 vs. Sac City.