TUOLUMNE – Tyler Sells and Roger Alderman, a combined 490 pounds of nastiness, will let others stress about appearance.
“We’re ugly,” Sells said. “We love it.”
Sonora High’s tandem of terror cared only about results Friday night. The Wildcats’ 31-6 takedown of previously unbeaten Summerville was not pretty nor electric. But functional and convincing? You bet.
Sonora (8-2, 5-0) clinched its eighth straight Mother Lode League championship the old-fashioned way – by pushing Summerville (9-1, 4-1) off the line of scrimmage. Audie Peeples rushed 17 times for 99 yards and two touchdowns as the Wildcats built a 31-0 lead before the Bears salvaged their pride with a late touchdown.
“This group of seniors lead,” Sonora coach Bryan Craig praised. “They’re special kids.”
Sonora hopes for a No. 2 seed in Division V of the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs. The brackets will be announced Sunday, giving the Wildcats enough time to celebrate a typical take-charge romp through the MLL.
Sonora would have scored on the first series if not for a fumble deep in Summerville territory. The miscue, combined with an interception later in the first half, only stalled the inevitable. Sonora led 10-0 before the Bears managed a first down.
“Stopping the run and being able to run is the key in high school football,” Summerville coach Sean Leveroos said. “They (Sonora) lean on you.”
Tuolumne County mobilized for a special night. Summerville, always the underdog vs. its bigger neighbors, built a 9-0 record for the first time since its 10-0 run in 1997. Parking on campus for the game was gone by 3:30 p.m., and many fans hopped on shuttle school buses for a short ride from a parking lot below packed Thorsted Field.
All chances for a home-team upset evaporated with one look at Alderman, bound for Utah, Sells and the rest of the Sonora linemen. The matchup advantage was hard to miss.
“They’re really big and they’re not slouches,” said Summerville senior quarterback Braylon Leveroos, the Bears’ run-pass threat and the coach's son. “They’re not the normal high-school kind of lineman. They’re quick and fast on their feet.”
The result was a crunching 290 yards on the ground, featuring minus yardage only three times in 54 attempts. Sonora quarterback Adam Curnow, often giving to Peeples or keeping it, rushed for 54 yards. He attempted only six passes for 39 yards.
Sonora took a lead it would not relinquish on Jack Teem’s 4-yard run to the outside to start the second quarter. Braylon Leveroos was hit as he threw on the next series, and Peeples hauled in the interception at the Summerville 22. Minutes later, Tim Blackmore – whose strong foot is a major weapon for Sonora – hit a 34-yard field goal straight and true for the 10-0 lead.
Summerville had chances, as Braylon Leveroos bought time with his legs and scrambled to stretch plays. But a 34-yard field goal was missed late in the half, and Sonora – gifted with 30 yards in penalties on one play – cashed in. One play after Curnow found Teem alone for 29 yards, Peeples dived into the end zone to complete the 9-yard touchdown with 24 seconds left before halftime.
Sonora outgained Summerville 329-160, and one new wrinkle helped. Sells and Alderman, usually guards on offense, sometimes aligned shoulder-to-shoulder against the Bears to maximize power.
Defensively, the duo combined with massive nose tackle Jonah Gabel to shut down the Summerville attack. Kai Elkins, Summerville’s top ground-gainer, worked hard for his 29 yards on 14 carries.
“We came in knowing No. 3 (Leveroos) was the guy,” Craig said. “We did a good job scheming it.”
Summerville marched to the Sonora 22 to start the second half, but Leveroos overthrew an open receive in the end zone on fourth down. Sonora responded with a 74-yard drive capped by Peeples’ stepping home from the 3 standing up.
Bryce Nicolson took a pitch and raced 9 yards for Sonora’s final touchdown.
Summerville’s energy, despite Sonora’s perennial dominance, showed late in the game. Auston Hike’s 40-yard kick return fueled the Bears and, 11 plays later, Leveroos scrambled both right and left before he connected with Kyle Curran for the 4-yard TD with 4:09 left.
“I know every single guy on that team,” Alderman said. “We love each other off the field and hate each other on the field.”
Summerville seeks a top 4 seed, which would guarantee a home game, in Division VI. There’s a good chance the Bears won’t see the kind of line strength exhibited by Sonora.
Sells and Alderman clearly enjoy not being matinee idols. But on the football field, they’re Sonora gold.