Second-Half Turnovers cost Wolverines a Win
This was supposed to be the week the Sierra College football team got back on track.
Saturday afternoon’s contest against visiting Laney College came off the heels of two devastating, last-second losses to highly-ranked Northern California squads and despite early momentum against the Eagles, recent history reared its ugly head.
The Wolverines coughed up the ball five times in the second half en route to a 45-28 loss at Homer “Buzz” Ostrom Stadium and fell to 0-3 on the year.
“We went to their place last year and beat them,” head coach Ben Noonan explained. “And we’re a better football team this year than last year.
“But last year at this point, we had a win. And this year we don’t. So we have to go back to the drawing board and get back to work this week.”
Sierra College actually took an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter thanks to a three-yard run from Drew Lackowski and a 10-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Cota to Isaiah Bailey. The latter hookup capping a 4-play, 25-yard drive in the back corner of the endzone.
“It’s good having Devin Gray on the other side because he attracts a safety over the top,” said Bailey of his fellow wideout. “They had press coverage, and coach wanted to take a shot. So I just broke outside and made the catch over his head.”
Following Sierra’s extra point conversion, the Wolverines let momentum swing the other way as they gave up an 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Just four minutes later, Laney College added a pair of touchdown passes and took a 21-14 lead with six minutes left in the first half.
“To be honest, we had a couple plays we didn’t convert on and we had a couple defensive plays where (we didn’t execute) and they ended up scoring,” Cota explained.
The offense regained its footing with a 7-yard touchdown before halftime as Cota found Bailey again and the teams went into halftime tied at 21-all.
But the second half, which hasn’t been kind to the Wolverines yet in 2015, was another frustrating ending.
The home team turned the ball over on each of its opening possessions of the second stanza — the first on a muffed punt return and the second on a Cota interception down the sideline — and could not recover.
Sierra was outscored 24-7 down the stretch after turning the ball over five times and the Wolverines have now been outscored 47-20 in the fourth quarter and overtime this season.
“The game came down to two turnovers in the redzone by us,” Noonan said. “One on the dive play on the one-yard line where he tried to go over the top and gave it away in the first half, and then our best football player, Devin Gray… was striped on another redzone trip in the second half. The defender made a great play on the football and just took it away. We also had two special teams plays that gave up 14 points off the fumbled punt return and the kickoff return.
“That’s 28 points that we basically gave away.”
Laney added two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and added a field goal late to seal the win.
Despite the loss, there was a bright spot for the home team.
The silver lining came early in the first half, when running back Joshua Dupree — who played for then-head coach Jeff Tisdel back in 2011-12 before suffering a torn MCL and meniscus tear in his knee — saw his first action in the Wolverines backfield in four years.
“It meant everything to me to get back out here with my brothers from the Sierra squad,” Dupree said. “It was a blessing to be in there today and to be truthful, my knee is feeling good. I’m back to being fast and agile.”
Dupree and the Wolverines will be back in action Sept. 26 as they look for their first win of the season at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills.
“We just have to stay positive, come back and work hard next week,” Sierra’s left tackle and Oakmont High grad Derrick Achayo said. “Next week is a must-win.”