Wolverines drop fourth straight in Valley opener

By: Eric J. Gourley Journal Sports Writer
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STOCKTON — At this point, the Sierra College Wolverines are less concerned with defending their back-to-back Valley Conference titles than they are winning a game. Sierra slipped deeper into unfamiliar territory Saturday afternoon, dropping its conference opener to San Joaquin Delta in a 52-43 slugfest. The injury-plagued Wolverines fell to 2-4 overall, losing four games in a season for the first time in eight years. “Even though we’ve won the last two championships, I’m not thinking about it,” said head coach Jeff Tisdel, who went 6-5 in 2001, his second season at the helm. “I’m just thinking about us getting better and getting out of this funk and trying to get a win next week. Our program’s been so stellar. Not only is our program not used to this, I’m not used to it.” Sierra lost defensive end Perry Jackson, a talented Oregon State commit, to a torn ACL in its season-opener. Standout linebacker Paul Vassallo suffered a concussion two weeks ago and missed Saturday’s game, as did defensive end Darius Woods and starting strong safety Shaun Jordon. Quarterback Jeff Nelson has also battled injury. “I definitely can’t see us losing composure,” said sophomore tight end Mike Cody, a Colfax graduate who caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Nelson with 10:40 left in the third quarter to give Sierra its largest lead, 31-28. “Obviously we’ve lost four in a row,” Cody said. “We’re a team that has a long way to go, but there’s no doubt in my mind we’ll figure it out. Losing individual after individual every week is kind of tough on the team. The thing about football is you have to put games behind you and play one week at a time. It’s important to move forward and not stop.” Mustangs quarterback Pietro Murdaca hurt the Wolverines all afternoon, finishing 19 for 32 for 271 yards. The Wolverines also had a tough time stopping running back James Langford, who had several big kickoff returns, including a 91-yard touchdown in the third quarter. “It’s just one of those years,” Tisdel said. “We’ve had a multitude of injuries off and on every week from the start of the season when we lost Perry. It’s tough not having all the bullets in the holster. I’m the last person in the world to make excuses, but we’ve had so many different rotations and lineups and because of kids being out, we just don’t have any consistency. We haven’t been able to stop anybody.” Sierra tailback Deonte’ Williams scored on runs of 7, 4 and 5 yards and finished the game with 28 carries for 128 yards. C.J. Woodbury ran 17 times for 72 yards and a second-quarter touchdown. Wide receiver Justin Chastain, a Colfax graduate, caught a 25-yard scoring pass from Nelson and recovered a teammate’s fumble in the end zone for a touchdown. He had six catches for 102 yards. Nelson completed 17-of-32 passes for 214 yards. He threw two interceptions. The Wolverines host West Hills next Saturday afternoon for homecoming.