Tigers defeat Golden Bears, square off against Spartans

Woodlake’s defense keeps Sierra Pacific scoreless through three and a half quarters, wins 14-7

By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN

WOODLAKE – Good teams find ways to win in different ways, and that is what the Woodlake Tigers had to do against Sierra Pacific last Friday night..

Woodlake (5-1) lit up the score board two weeks ago when they dropped 50 on the Lindsay Cardinals. Last Friday, they showed they could win with their defense too. There weren’t many highlights that ended in the end zone against the Golden Bears (1-4), but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t excitement.

Woodlake breaks up a Sierra Pacific pass into the endzone in the second quarter of their game at home last week. Photo by Paul Myers

In the final three minutes of the game Sierra Pacific quarterback Chad Leslie hit Gavin Gamble down the field for a huge gain that ended deep in the red zone. Despite the away side cheers the play was called back because of a penalty. It didn’t matter much because Leslie did it again when he hit Adam Antuna for another huge gain that came down to the Woodlake 8-yard line.

Two plays later Leslie reconnected with Gamble for a short out route and touchdown to come within a score 7-14. Things got interesting again when Woodlake got the ball with 2:27 left and the Golden Bear defense stood up the Tiger attack for a three and out.

“I got a lot of respect for Sierra Pacific. They played the game really well. They gave us their best shot and we were lucky to come out with a win,” Woodlake head coach Jeff Johnson said.

Sierra Pacific got the ball back with no timeouts and 1:58 left in the game. On third and 10, Leslie passed for another huge gain that had the potential for a touchdown if it were not for the Tigers’ defensive pursuit. Unfortunately it didn’t matter because the gain was wiped out on a penalty in the backfield, turning a third and 10 to a third and 20, and little hope of reaching the first down.

Woodlake’s defense rose to the task and got the ball back on downs, and the 14-7 win.

“I gotta give Sierra Pacific a lot of credit they are a hell of a team. Their coach does a great job of getting those boys ready…this is what our league needs. They need good games, where the score is close,” Johnson said.

Next on the schedule for the Tigers is the formidable Strathmore Spartans. Woodlake handed the Spartans their first loss in two and half years during 2018’s matchup. Strathmore was coming off their 16-0 valley championship and state championship winning season. The Spartans continued on to the valley championship game against Sierra Pacific and won, then went on to lose to Hilmar in their third straight state championship appearance.

Woodlake will need the kind of defense they brought on Friday night that held Sierra Pacific scoreless through three full quarters.

“I can’t say enough about how well [our defense] played. Our defensive coordinator Manny Martinez does a great job of getting our guys ready and they came out and played well,” Johnson said.

But they will also need their offense to put up some points, which were not so easy to come by last week.

The Tigers left the first quarter scoreless and it wasn’t until 3:37 was left in the half when senior Tiger quarterback Damian Hernandez hit Luis Lopez on an out route in the end zone. The play was sparked by a 36-yard contested catch to Victor Magana on the sideline.

Woodlake did not score again until late in the third quarter when Hernandez and Lopez connected again on an easy 20-yard pitch and catch touchdown. Hernandez trusted Lopez by throwing it up and Lopez easily high pointed the ball over the defender.

The Tigers’ defense managed to hold Sierra Pacific off the board until late in the game.

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