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Sierra College football opens 2016 season with visiting Fresno City

By: Steven Wilson of the Auburn Journal
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2016 SIERRA COLLEGE LOCALS

Ryan Gray, Placer High, MLB/FB

Patrick Nevin, Placer High, OT

Bryan Berube, Placer High, DE/TE

Caleb Mitchell, Placer High, LB

Justus Spillner, NU/Colfax, QB

Beay Baggett, Bear River, LB

Tyrell Anderson, Center High, CB

Kris Sutton, Center High, DE

Matthew Chum, Center High, WR

Casey Boyd, Center High, DB

Marcellus Roberts, Center High, RB

Adam Besana, Roseville High, QB

Jahmar Sexton, Monterey Trail, CB

Joseph DeRouen, Oakmont, RB

Chase Tagert, Oakmont, FS

Andrew Lackowski, Oak Ridge, RB

Isaiah Bailey, Jesuit High, WR

Andre Sandridge, Rocklin High, NG

Devin Brocchini, Whitney, WR

Will Young, Casa Robles, OL

Matt Nunez, Casa Robles, OL

Felipe Chambers, Del Campo, DB

Justin Thorvet, Valley Christian, DL

Lanell Nelson, Antelope, WR

2016 SIERRA COLLEGE FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

Sep. 3 - Sierra vs. Fresno City College, 2 pm

Sep. 10 - Sierra at College of San Mateo, 1 pm

Sep. 17 - Sierra vs. Conta Costa College, 1 pm

Sep. 24 - Sierra at College of the Sequioas, 2 pm

Oct. 1 - Sierra vs. Santa Rosa Jr. College, 1 pm

Oct. 15 - Sierra at *Sacramento City College, 6 pm

Oct. 22 - Sierra vs. *Feather River College, 1pm

Oct. 29 - Sierra at *Butte College, 1 pm

Nov. 5 - Sierra at *College of the Siskiyous, 1 pm

Nov. 12 - Sierra vs. *American River College, 1 pm

Sierra College’s 2016 football season begins much like the way the 2015 campaign ended.

The team hosts Fresno City College — the same program the Wolverines beat on a late field goal in overtime in the State Center Bowl — Saturday at 2 p.m. The two clubs are familiar with each other and should provide fans excitement as the new year kicks off.

“They’re coming up here for payback,” Sierra’s defensive coordinator and Auburn resident Jim Gray said. “They still believe they should have won that bowl game. So it’s going to be a feisty start to the season.”

Sierra’s head coach Ben Noonan enters year No. 4 with the program and is fresh off the team’s first bowl victory since 2008. Noonan has helped produce six All-Conference players, four All-State honorees, and a pair of All-American selections in his time with the Wolverines.

But the nights leading up to gameday haven’t gotten any easier.

“I won’t sleep the next three nights,” Noonan confessed as a smile crossed his face. “We’re really looking forward to getting after it Saturday and Fresno City College is a very formidable program. They’re always a national powerhouse. They’re big, they run the ball, they use play-action well, and defensively, they return quite a few freshman starters in the their secondary from last year. That should be a good challenge for our passing game.”

Noonan says Roseville High alum Adam Besana, who greyshirted last year due to a knee injury, will get the start at quarterback over former Nevada Union and Colfax High signal caller Justus Spillner, who sat out his senior prep season due to ineligibility.

“Adam’s our starter right now and doing a fine job,” Noonan said. “He really took advantage of his greyshirt last year. He took it serious — like he was playing each week, showing up to all the meetings, preparing and practicing with the team. He’s growing every day and getting better and that’s all we can ask from him.”

Besana, who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs nearly 240 pounds, and Spillner, who is 6-5 and 220, are both large-frame quarterbacks with the ability to get the ball downfield. And both will see action this weekend.

“Spillner will come in as a backup, but he will play,” Noonan confirmed. “He’s also done a good job in practice.”

Graduates from Placer, Oakmont, Oak Ridge, Nevada Union and Center are also scattered throughout the roster this season. On defense, Placer High standout Ryan Gray — Jim’s youngest son — has moved back to his normal linebacker position after spending last year on the defensive line. The Wolverines also employ Rocklin High graduate Andre Sandridge, who plugs up any holes at nose guard.

“Andre is getting looks from a lot of Division I schools,” Gray acknowledged. “He’s a big guy with arms the size of Popeye’s, so we’re expecting big things from him.”

Fans may also remember former Center High cornerback Tyrell Anderson, who returned an 85-yard kickoff on the final play of the game to beat Placer in the 2013 playoffs. Anderson, who originally earned a four-year university scholarship, has returned to Northern California to join the Wolverines’ secondary.

“Placer was winning that game and all they had to do was kickoff and the game’s over,” Gray recalled. “And he ran it all the way back to win.”

With Anderson helping lock down Fresno’s passing attack, the rest of the Wolverines unit can focus on the Rams’ playmaking tight ends and the team’s quarterback, who throws well on the run.

“He’s a bootleg type of quarterback,” Gray explained. “They like to run that power formation with an offset fullback and run the ball downhill and then bootleg out of it. You have to be ready for their run, but they have a good passing game as well — they’re well-balanced.”

This is Gray’s first season as the team’s defensive coordinator, but he is excited to see what his group of veteran players can do.

“You still get those nerves; you hope all your guys are ready to play and that they know that you’ve prepared them well,” Gray said. “In this case, I think we’ve done a good job and I feel like all the coaches have gotten our guys ready. They’re looking forward to it — we’ve been going against each other in scout team so much that they’re ready to hit someone else.”

Kickoff is at 2 p.m., one hour back from the normal start time due to extended travel times.