Sierra High first-year head coach Jeff Abrew is no stranger to success at Sierra. A longtime coordinator and assistant coach, Abrew has ties to the school's Sac-Joaquin Section and CIF State title teams. (Wayne Thallander)

'I knew this year would be special': New faces make Sierra football exciting again

Independent Contributor

After a long last two seasons, the Sierra High football team may have finally found its footing under new head coach Jeff Abrew.

The Timberwolves are off to a 2-0 start with wins against Lathrop in the season opener and a blowout of Grace Davis on Friday.

“I knew this year would be a special year,” said senior Jax Ballard. “We have a lot of people participating, there’s a different vibe overall. People want to be out there, people want to play.” Ballard says the key to the Timberwolves’ early success is the introduction of new talent. The junior class has been building toward this moment since they stepped onto campus. Led by quarterback Zak Willson, the Class of 2025 has gone 13-7 over the last two seasons, finishing behind Manteca and Central Catholic in the race for Valley Oak League supremacy.

Junior quarterback Zak Willson has thrown for 439 yards and five touchdowns, but more impressively, he hasn't thrown an interception. (James Burns)

Willson, who beat out senior and returning starter Timothy Sarginson, has thrown for 439 yards and five touchdowns in two games. His top target is another new face – Trevor Sutton, who is averaging 119 yards per game.

Suddenly, the Timberwolves’ spread offense can attack from multiple angles. The burden doesn’t fall solely on senior running back Anthony Grady, who carried 18 times for 180 yards and four touchdowns in last week's rout of the Spartans at Modesto Junior College.

“Playmakers. We definitely have playmakers,” Ballard said. “Last year, we had Grady as our only playmaker. This year we have a lot more receivers, quarterbacks, good defensive backs… overall, much more talent.”

Abrew inherited a team that has been at the bottom of the Valley Oak League each of the past two seasons, and he has his team off to a hot start. The revitalized offense has tallied 101 points in only two games. Like his senior lineman, Abrew attributes the team’s triumphs to new talent.

“I think we were just able to get guys out on campus who were already on campus to come out and play on the football team,” said Abrew. “We got our numbers up, and we’re just trying to build a positive culture and get guys competing.”

The culture change is certainly one the players welcome. Ballard describes Abrew as a great coach to play for; one that “understands (his players)” and “has that fight in him.”

Added Ballard: “He’s more in-tune with the players. He wants to get the job done.”

The shift in energy that Abrew’s presence has brought to the locker has reignited Sierra football. “We’ve won one game in each of the last three years, so for us to start off 2-0, the kids are excited. The school is excited,” said the first-year head coach. “But we know that we have a lot of work ahead of us; that we have to keep getting better. … It’s nice to be 2-0, but we have to really work to finish off the preseason with a great record.”

The Timberwolves will continue their hot streak in a bout against Golden Valley Friday night.

Lucas Stackpole is a freelance reporter with Stackpole, who began writing for Front Row as a student intern, is a freshman at Mount Saint Mary College in New York, studying sports journalism.