It's a familiar scenario in sports. A team gets destroyed in a home game and the season and, in many cases, the state of the program is on the line at that team's next game, which is, of course, on the road. A team can either cash it in or they can have short memories, play the way they know they can, and enjoy a bus trip home after a win that saves the season and helps define who they are. The Sierra College football team faced just such a situation last Saturday as they traveled to Cupertino to take on the undefeated De Anza Dons, who were ranked seventh in the state.
After a 31-0 shellacking by Siskiyous at a rain-soaked Buzz on Sept. 21—and it wasn't even that close—Coach Ben Noonan's Wolverines had many wounds to lick, almost all of them psychological. There's no easy way to say it: that was the worst game I had ever seen a Sierra team play (thanks to a dozen turnovers). If a good, but unspectacular, Eagle team, could blow out Sierra, what was in store as the Wolverines took the field in Silicon Valley against the bruising Dons?
What was in store was a solid defensive effort that shut down De Anza's vaunted run game, a two-pronged rushing attack in the form of Kashad Watson and Calvin Burns, a team that didn't panic when it was down 28-20 with 4:47 to go, and a wacky, improbable, once-in-a-lifetime14-yard punt return that gave Sierra an amazing 35-28 win.
The win evened Sierra's record at 2-2, but more importantly, the victory was the first block in Noonan's foundation as he strives to build a program. The team was motivated Saturday from the get-go, memories of the previous week's debacle all but erased. De Anza took the lead three times, and Sierra answered each time—with a 42-yard Watson TD run, a 33-yard scoring pass from Daniel Harding to Tre'Von Lampley and subsequent two-point conversion that tied it at 28 with 3:17 left, and then D.J. Myart's punt return at the 2:14 mark.
If ESPN had been there, the punt return would have been one of the day's top ten plays. The Wolverines stopped De Anza at its ten, forcing the Dons to punt from their end zone. The kick went straight up in the air, bounced high in the air at the fourteen and was grabbed by Myart, who raced down the sideline untouched for the winning score. The Sierra sideline exploded (as did the handful of Sierra staff members in the press box), A. J. Silva converted the extra point, and, four plays later, the Wolverines were basking in the glow of victory.
It was a fun trip back to Rocklin, as the Wolverines had saved the season and Noonan had his first statement win.