GARDEN VALLEY — Behind effective running and active defense, host Golden Sierra broke into the win column Friday in defeating Vacaville Christian 35-14 to open Sierra Delta League play.
With quarterback Daniel Lesher nursing a sore arm, all five Grizzly touchdowns came on the ground, including Lesher’s 36-yard scamper for paydirt in the third quarter. Overall, Golden Sierra rushed for 305 yards, led by Cameron Stephens’ 109-yard effort.
A big crowd turned out for Homecoming festivities, hoping to help turn the team’s fortunes around after a winless preseason. Golden Sierra’s 0-4 start against bigger programs failed to dampen the spirits of last year’s league champs.
“Even though it’s been a frustrating four weeks we always believed we were doing the right thing, stuck it out and stayed the course. I’m happy for the guys,” Grizzly coach John Hilton said.
Golden Sierra won the first-half turnover battle 3-2 to take a 21-6 lead at the break. After a series of punts opened the game, the Grizzlies broke through after Brian Cann’s option pass found Stephens for a 42-yard pickup down to the Falcon 25 yard line. Three plays later, behind Cann’s final push as the lead blocker, Stephens scored the first of his two touchdowns on a 10-yard run late in the first quarter.
Holding Vacaville and forcing a bad punt, the home squad capitalized when Stephens, aided by lead blocks from Wyatt Alexander and Anthony Rosas, hit the corner and raced 45 yards as Golden Sierra extended. Casey Blakley’s sack of Falcon quarterback Devin Villarreal closed the quarter.
“The line did a great job, I saw a cutback lane, hit it hard and had an open field,” Stephens said.
Thanks to Blakley, the Grizzlies had excellent field position for their next possession and immediately scored when Alexander broke from the pack and raced 26 yards for the score. Cann, perfect on point after kicks, added his third straight for a 21-zip lead.
The Falcons answered on an 83-yard dash by Brody Lambert but were turned away on their next drive when Sam Steward’s tip led to Rosa’s interception in the end zone. Lesher also came up big in the first half: an aerial theft of Villarreal and later, a fumble recovery.
“Overall the defense performed fairly well but we need to work on our pass coverage — it’s a work in progress,” Steward said. “It felt good to get the win and have points on the board when we were out on defense. We’re finally into league and ready to roll. It’s a new start.”
Golden Sierra added on its second possession of the third quarter after Jeff Klahn dropped the Falcon punter after a mishandled snap. From Vacaville’s 12, Alexander gained 5 on two carries and Cann went in untouched from the 7.
Klahn’s sack of Villarreal, his second on the evening, preceded the Grizzlies’ next scoring drive. Lesher’s keeper on fourth down covered the final 36 as Golden Sierra held a 35-7 advantage.
“Our offensive line came to play,” said Hilton of a group featuring Trevor Pedri, Korey Hensman, Justin Eicher, Blakley, Jacob Hamilton, Connor Jansen and Steward (tight end). “Our whole emphasis was to get off on the count to the point of attack.”
Lambert’s second touchdown, this time from the 2, drew the visitors closer but time was not a Falcon ally. The Griz burned the clock behind the running of Rosas, Anthony Burrows, Klahn, Cann and Lesher before punting back late in the fourth quarter.
Burrows’ sack and fumble recovery on the next play ended the game.
Golden Sierra’s JV improved to 6-0 with a 54-7 thumping of Marysville. Brenden Nutt ran for a whopping 218 yards on just four carries and scored four touchdowns, one covering 96 yards. The Grizzlies other touchdowns came from Nick White (two), Reily Prine and Jeff Gale.