None of the California Interscholastic Federation’s 13 state bowls, pitting regional champions from the north against the south, feature a clash of schools located as close together as the Division IV-A final between Chowchilla High and Manteca-based Sierra.
Manteca is a 75-mile, hour-and-a-half drive down Highway 99 from Chowchilla.
Because of that relative proximity, and brimming Chowchilla community pride over reaching the state finals, athletic director Rich Parris said he wouldn’t be surprise if 4,000 people show up to Henry Massaro Stadium at 6 p.m. Saturday to see the Central Section D-IV champion Redskins (12-2) host the Sac-Joaquin Section D-IV champion Timberwolves (9-5).
The venue officially seats 2,550, but extra bleachers have been added and standing-room will be allowed to pack in as many fans as possible.
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“If we have to put them in the turns, we’ll put them in the turns,” Parris said. “If we have to put them on the roof, we’ll put them on the roof.”
Sierra arrives winners of five straight, including a 17-13 victory over Sutter last week in the Northern California Regionals, after a fifth-place finish in an eight-team Valley Oak League that also features Open Division Small Schools finalist Central Catholic-Modesto.
The Timberwolves run a balanced, spread offense that features junior quarterback Mark Vincent (2,361 yards and 18 touchdowns), senior running back Mark Paule (1,452 yards and 17 touchdowns) and senior receiver Daniel Wyatt (1,001 yards and seven touchdowns).
Screens to Paule and Wyatt are a big part of Sierra’s passing attack, Chowchilla coach Alex Pittz said.
Defensively, the Timberwolves run a 4-3 led by defensive end Andrew Guevara (18.5 sacks and 25 quarterback hurries) and defensive back Geo Juarez (four interceptions).
They look pretty athletic on defense. They attack the line of scrimmage and get real aggressive.
Chowchilla football coach Alex Pittz on Sierra-Manteca, his team’s opponent in Saturday’s CIF State Divvision IV-A football championship.
“They look pretty athletic on defense,” said Pittz, whose team beat Fairfax-Los Angeles 28-16 in the Southern California Regionals. “They attack the line of scrimmage and get real aggressive. I think they will be a bigger challenge than Fairfax was defensively.”
Pittz said Chowchilla has reached the state championship stage in large part because of the relationships developed during an annual camping trip the program takes at the end of its summer training.
While gathered at a Pittz-family cabin in Cedar Valley, Redskins players shared personal – sometimes even embarrassing – details of their lives and families, and their reason for playing football.
“We knew we were going to have talent, but talent only gets you so far. You have to come together and kids have to buy in,” Pittz said. “If you ever get that atmosphere where kids are playing for each other because they love each other, that’s when you take the step from good team to great team.
“The level of honesty we had around the camp fire that night really opened the door for these guys to form these bonds and develop that brotherhood. We still had a lot of growing to do, but the kids did it. And we’re in this position because of those things.”