Sierra back on winning track at homecoming

By: Eric J. Gourley Journal Sports Writer
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ROCKLIN — Benched the entire first quarter Saturday afternoon, Brandon Michalkiewicz made the most of homecoming when he finally hit the field. The Sierra College wide receiver caught the first of four touchdown passes with 23 seconds left in the first half, a key score that shifted the momentum to the Wolverines in a hard-fought 35-28 Valley Conference victory over West Hills of Coalinga. The Falcons led 21-7 midway through the second quarter after their third straight touchdown. Michalkiewicz scored the next four touchdowns of the game to help Sierra (3-4, 1-1 Valley) snap an uncharacteristic four-game losing streak. “Brandon didn’t block consistently last week so we sat him out the first quarter,” head coach Jeff Tisdel said of the Granite Bay graduate. “He came in, he was mature about it and did a great job. He made huge plays.” Michalkiewicz caught scoring strikes of 21, 24, 41 and 67 yards from quarterback Jeff Nelson. “I kept my head up and I knew when I was going to go in I was going to play hard just like I always have,” Michalkiewicz said. “I can’t get down on myself, because it’s a team sport. It’s not a ‘me’ sport. I did what I could to help the team and make us win. In a game that featured a combined 15 punts, a Wolverine defense plagued by injury held off a West Hills comeback in the final seconds to preserve the win after the Falcons (2-5, 0-2 Valley) cut the deficit back to seven with 9:18 remaining. Sierra forced the Falcons to turn the ball over on downs three times in the final minutes. Joe Esquivel had a big fourth-down sack on one drive. Then, on fourth-and-five from the Sierra 31 with 23 seconds left, Setaleki Fuapau sacked West Hills quarterback Tate Humphrey for a 13-yard loss, allowing Nelson to take a knee and run the clock out. “Offensively we played really well for three quarters and the defense earned the game in the fourth quarter,” Tisdel said. “They responded with some pressure and some great sacks. All I wanted was to get those four games off our back and see some smiles on the kids’ faces again.” With the victory, Sierra also remained bowl-eligible. The Wolverines must win their final three Valley Conference games to keep those hopes alive. “We needed to get back in that win column before we think about anything else,” Michalkiewicz said. Wolverines tailback Deonte’ Williams opened the scoring with a 6-yard touchdown run. He rushed 17 times for a team-high 59 yards. Nelson completed 16-of-31 passes for 267 yards. Sierra travels to Fresno City College next Saturday for another Valley showdown. The Wolverines prevailed in their last road meeting with the powerhouse Rams two years ago. Tisdel is hoping for the return of standout linebacker Paul Vassallo, who suffered a concussion three weeks ago and is still experiencing minor headaches. Starting strong safety Shaun Jordon may also return to action for the Wolverines, who lost defensive end Perry Jackson, a talented Oregon State commit, to a torn ACL in their season-opener.