Colfax, Roseville grads in Sierra College quarterback battle

By: Mike Ray of the Auburn Journal
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2016 Sierra College Football schedule
Sept  3 vs. Fresno City
Sept. 10 at College of San Mateo
Sept. 17 vs. Contra Costa
Sept. 24 at C. of Sequoias
Oct. 1 vs. Santa Rosa JC
Oct. 8 – Bye
Oct. 15 at Sacramento City College
Oct. 22 vs. Feather River 
Oct. 29 at Butte College
Nov. 5 at Siskiyous
Nov. 12 vs. American River   

Two months ago, Sierra College football coach Ben Noonan was sitting in the catbird’s seat in regards to the quarterback position for his Wolverines and the upcoming 2016 grid season.

But as quickly as returning Sierra signal-caller Cole Brownholtz put his name on a letter of intent in May to play football on scholarship at the University of Hawaii, the QB picture in Rocklin quickly fell out of focus.

On the eve of the Wolverines’ opening camp next week, it appears that the battle for Sierra’s starting quarterback position will fall on the shoulders of perhaps two players who haven’t thrown a pass in a game since the 2014 season or two fresh-faced incoming freshmen.

“That’s the great thing about junior college athletics,” said Noonan, now ready to begin his fourth season at Sierra. “In Cole we had an athlete who worked his tail off in the offseason and had a chance to move on.

“We didn’t want to hold him back.”

Brownholtz, who played his high school ball at Jesuit, passed for 1,385 yards and 12 touchdowns last season at Sierra. He was one of two quarterbacks that moved on from the Wolverines with scholarships. He’s now fighting for the starting job at Hawaii, which opens its season Aug. 26 in a game against California that is being played in Australia.

Kyle Cota, a sophomore last season for the Wolverines who threw for 2,652 yards and 26 touchdowns, also gained a scholarship out of Rocklin. Cota, who was the MVP of Sierra’s 31-26 win over Fresno City College in the Center State Bowl, accepted a Division II scholarship to Glenville State in West Virginia. At Glenville, he will join three other former Wolverines gridders.

“Our athletes that we get here all have a chance of moving on,” Noonan said. “This past year we were able to have eight players receive scholarships.”

As far as this season is concerned, Noonan expects about 90 players to begin drills next week.

Adam Besana, a red-shirt freshman out of Roseville, last played in 2014 when he threw for 918 yards and six touchdowns for the Tigers before his season ended after six games because of injury.

He is the son of former Sierra and Cal standout Fred Besana, who later played in both the NFL and WFL. Adam Besana gray-shirted last season but practiced with the Wolverines when the majority of the quarterback reps went to Cota and Brownholtz.

Another candidate for Sierra at the quarterback post this season is incoming freshman Justus Spillner, a June graduate from Colfax High.

Spillner’s background is interesting. Attending Nevada Union, Spillner was the Miners’ starting quarterback as a sophomore and junior before transferring in January of 2015 to Colfax.

However, while at Colfax, the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section ruled the transfer “athletically    motivated” and  Spillner was ineligible for the 2015 season.

Although Spillner didn’t play in any games for the Falcons last season, he practiced with Colfax and spent most of a year with Falcons coach Tony Martello, one of the more noted quarterback coaches in the Sacramento region. Four of Martello’s former quarterbacks have earned Division I scholarships.

In his last season at Nevada Union, despite being in a wing-T-based offense, Spillner threw for 832 yards and five touchdowns.

Two other quarterback candidates have also emerged at Sierra. They include Will Hogan, a 6-2, 190-pound freshman out of Syosset, New York and Marcus Howard, an athletic 5-9, 155-pounder from Will C. Wood in Vacaville.

Howard brings some impressive statistics with him to Rocklin. At Wood last season, Howard threw for 3,389 yards and 41 touchdowns as he led the Vacaville school to a 10-2 record.

The Wildcats reached the second round of the CIF Division II playoffs where they were eliminated by eventual state champion Del Oro in a 59-49 shootout.

Noonan, whose Wolverines open their season with a Sept. 3 home test against Fresno City, will get an early look at his squad when Sierra visits Yuba College for a Aug. 24 scrimmage.

“We’re excited about this season,” Noonan said. “We’re ready to go to work.”