Sierra College football closes out ‘very disappointing season’ with 62-42 triumph

By: Jeremy McDonald / Special to the Journal
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ROCKLIN — Anything can happen on any Saturday in college football.

Sierra College almost squandered a 35-0  lead, relying on two big defensive stops late and a 201-yard rushing game by Zack Graves to seal a 62-42 victory over visiting Feather River College.

“We really wanted to get the win for the sophomores and freshmen,” said Wolverines coach Ben Noonan.  “The freshmen wanted to get it for the sophomores and the sophomores wanted to leave with their last game at Sierra College on their home field on a good note after a very disappointing season.”

Sierra (3-7, 1-4 NorCal Conference) jumped out to a 35-point lead behind two rushing scores from Graves (Whitney High) and looked to be fully in control of the game.

But then the Golden Eagle passing game came to life against the Wolverines, amassing 133 second-quarter yards and two scores to go into halftime down 49-16.

“We didn’t necessarily fall asleep but we got a little laxed today in the secondary,” said Sierra linebacker Austin Wyatt-Thayer.  “Their quarterback is a great player. He was running around making opportunities and he has a cannon so there’s not much you can do.”

Feather River (2-8, 0-5) wasn’t done just yet, scoring four third-quarter touchdowns, three from Eagles quarterback Matt Hommell, who finished with five passing touchdowns and 447 yards against the Sierra College defense. The Eagles also scored on an interception returned for a touchdown by Mervin McCane to cut the Sierra College lead down to 55-42 entering the fourth quarter.

“We were having fun in the first half when we were blowing them out,” Graves said.  “But once it got close, I’m sure we started to get worried because it happened to us a few times this season when we lost close games when we were up in the fourth quarter and they came back and win.”

With 10:33 left in the game, Trevon Lampley ran in from 2 yards out to make it 62-42 after the Sierra defense forced a three-and-out and the offense pieced together a good drive.

“We realized in order for us to win the game, we would have to not let up on the gas pedal,” Graves said.  “We kept trying score to put points on the board.  We never got comfortable, we never thought we’re going to have this game.”

“We played as if it was a close game.”

The Sierra College defense forced two consecutive fourth-down stops in the fourth period to put themselves in a position to win as it kept it on the ground with Graves before kneeling the ball to seal the victory.

“We lost several games by four points or less,” Noonan said.  “To win the last one feels good for the kids and kind of sends a little bit of a message that we’re better than our record shows.”

“I pictured it differently entering halftime when we’re up 30-something points,” Wyatt-Thayer said of the game. “At the end, we prevailed.  It’s a funnier game when it’s a shootout than a blowout.”