Jr. Wolves are tough, Jr. Zebras are tougher

PeeWees, Jr. Midgets set stage for championship run
By: Greg Easter Courtesy News Messenger Sports
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The Lincoln Jr. Zebras had a strong day in Sierra Valley USA Youth Football action against a solid and spirited program from Woodland. Woodland’s Jr. Wolves came to town with two of their four teams either in first place, or tied for it. They went home with one win and three losses after tangling with Lincoln’s clubs. The Lincoln PeeWees led the way by knocking off the previously undefeated Jr. Wolves and replaced them at the top of the standings. The Jr. Midgets saw their shutout streak end at 20 quarters, but they quickly started a new one. They will now face Antelope this Saturday for first place; the Titans’ Jr. Midgets are also unbeaten. The Mighty Mites started the day with a tough challenge versus a big, veteran Jr. Wolves team. Logan Faddis, Zach Chamizo, Dustin Sherman, and Jack Nilsson executed a perfect reverse play that saw Nilsson take it 80 yards and crack the end zone with Jr. Wolves hanging on him. Chamizo then beat the Jr. Wolves in a race to the corner for the extra point. The Mighty Mites’ defense played aggressively and held the Jr. Wolves in check for much of the day. The defensive effort was led inside by Marcus Barros, and outside by Devin Sherman. Head coach John Hamilton's group, led by only seven returning players from last year, are showing great growth and are set to have a great couple of years. The Jr. PeeWees faced a confident Jr. Wolves team that tried to make a statement prior to the game. In the end, the scoreboard spoke loudest as head coach James Brown's squad chalked up another mark in the win column. The contest saw stingy defense on both sides of the ball. Lincoln jumped out on top on a physical run by Jacob Lemus, but the Jr. Zebras failed to convert on the extra point. Woodland came right back and scored on a sweep to the right side. The kicked point was good for an 8-6 Wolves’ halftime lead. With the Jr. Zebras still trailing, Luke Wiley made the first of his two interceptions to begin the fourth quarter. On forth-and-long, quarterback Kyle Easter then passed to receiver Ethan Suchomel, who made a great catch for a 30-yard gain. To culminate the drive, Grady Manley fought his way into the end zone to make the score 12-8, Jr. Zebras. Stout defense by Antonio Nevarez, Christopher Hernandez, Deven Coffer and a host of other Zebras forced the Jr. Wolves to go to the air. That’s when Wiley virtually sealed the game with an athletic grab of a Woodland pass and returned it to midfield. Lincoln then used their ground game to run the clock down to less than a minute in the contest. Jr. Zebras’ Ernesto Cuevas made the decisive tackle during Woodland’s last possession to deny the Jr. Wolves’ a comeback. The win put the Jr. PeeWees into a showdown for first against Antelope next week. In what may turn out to be the game of the year, head coach Dana Graham’s squad showed why practicing the “little things” can pay big dividends. Woodland’s PeeWees came in undefeated and alone in first, and the Jr. Zebras just a game behind. The Jr. Wolves demonstrated why they were ranked No. 1 as they jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead. The Jr. Zebras didn’t stay down very long as they bounced back with Ryan Graham carrying the ball in for a touchdown. Tyler Eslinger made a routine kick for the first of his two extra points and an 8-8 tie. Woodland regained the lead, but the extra-point kick was wide making the score 14-8, Jr. Wolves’ favor. With time running down, Logan Stern threw a pass to Michael Hamp cutting across the middle of the field to move the ball deep into Woodland territory. Stern then scored on a quarterback keeper to tie the game 14-14. With pressure mounting on a team of 11-year-olds, Eslinger was forced to pull up on his kick attempt because of a bobbled snap. However, the Jr. Zebras’ line held as control of the ball was regained, placed down, and Eslinger booted the ball through without benefit of an approach; score, Jr.Zebras’ 16, Jr. Wolves 14. Woodland still had a couple of minutes to try to mount something, but the Lincoln defense was just too strong and the Jr. Zebras earned a share of first place. In a battle between two of the three teams tied for first place, head coach Charles Middleton’s Jr. Midgets had a great day. Although their streak of 20 shutout quarters ended in the first period, they adjusted and started a new streak that now stands at three. Offensively, the line blew open holes for the running backs and protected quarterback Elijah Garcia when passing. Following the Jr. Wolves’ opening score, the Jr. Zebras ran up 42 unanswered points for a final tally of 42-6. Austin Bennett made two spectacular grabs for touchdowns and a number of Jr. Zebras found the end zone; Caleb Kettlehut had two. Again, defense was the story obliterating Woodland’s 32-points-a-game average. Blue uniforms, and as many as 11 blue helmets, swarmed the ball on every Jr. Wolves’ play. The defense was led by Jeffrey Jones, Pablo Miller, Gabe Triano, Joseph Flores, Zach Eutsey, and Charles Middleton. After dispatching one of the first-place teams, the Jr. Midgets will host undefeated Antelope, Saturday, to see who reigns supreme. Despite a rough start to the year, and the game, head coach Pete Manley’s Midgets showed tremendous fighting pride in spite of losing a 14-12 heartbreaker to the super-sized Midgets from Woodland. Woodland struck quickly with a nice pass to take an 8-0 lead. The Jr. Zebras came back with a 40-yard interception return for a score by Scott Trembinski. The Lincoln Midgets’ defense turned the ball back to the offense, which drove downfield from their 20 using smash-mouth football. The Woodland coaches took on a look of helplessness when quarterback PJ Manley hit Elijah Cunningham near the opposing sideline for a score. That gave the Jr. Zebras’ a 12-8 lead late in the game. Woodland returned the ensuing kickoff to Lincoln’s 30-yard line with three minutes left on the clock. Undaunted, the Jr. Zebras defense gave ground grudgingly as precious seconds ticked away. Woodland eventually clawed its way to the 5-yard line and scored on a quarterback sneak with 13 seconds remaining; too little time for Lincoln to mount a drive of its own. It was a great game, and a great job by the Jr. Zebras’ Midgets. The Jr. Zebras will host their last regular season home game this Saturday when the Jr. Titans of Antelope come to town. Three Jr. Titans’ teams are in playoff contention. The one-loss Jr. Zebras’ Jr. PeeWees could earn a share of first place by knocking off the undefeated Titans. The Jr. Midgets, 6-0, could gain sole possession of first by taking down the 5-0 Antelope club. The action begins Saturday, 9 a.m., with the Mighty Mites. Games follow every two hours by the Jr. PeeWees, PeeWees, and Jr. Midget games. The Midgets kick off the nightcap at 5.