SHINGLE SPRINGS — Nolan Merker threw for 322 yards and three touchdowns to lead visiting Sheldon over Ponderosa in both team’s season finale Friday.
The Bruins pulled out all the stops in their effort to snag the Delta River League victory, including risky gambles and trick plays. Austin Tibbs ran for over 100 yards and two touchdowns in his last appearance as a Bruin.
Wanting to avoid last place, Ponderosa (0-5) stunned Sheldon (1-4) when Xavier Valles recovered the game-opening onside kick. A possession later, Ponderosa broke its scoring drought when Josh Bist snared Colby Chiverton’s laser over the middle and cut up field another 35 yards to complete the 55-yard touchdown hookup.
Merker and his Husky receivers exploited the middle of the Bruins’ secondary with numerous catch-and-runs. While eight of Merker’s completions exceeded 20 yards or more, Ponderosa shut it down in the second half before Merker found late success.
Trailing 7-0, Sheldon reeled off 27 consecutive points to put the Bruins in a hole. The Huskies relied on a balanced attack and Merker’s tuck and 18-yard scamper tied the game. Ponderosa then dodged a bullet when Tibbs caused a fumble that Robert Holloway recovered after a long Husky gain.
Fumbles, one inside its own 5-yard line that Sheldon turned into a touchdown, hurt the Bruins in the third quarter. Overall, Ponderosa’s red zone defense rose to the occasion to keep the hosts in it.
After a Chad Sturgis sack of Merker forced a punt, Sheldon stopped the Bruins fourth-down run out of punt formation to get possession at the Ponderosa 8. Behind the line play of Aaron Jestice, Sturgis, Cristian Lopez and Austin Ryan, the Huskies were stopped at the half yard line.
Breakups by Holloway and Trae Providence and JoeDelValle’s stop of Merker’s sneak had the Bruins nearly out of another jam but Christian Rau’s juggling catch on fourth down in the back of the end zone put Sheldon up 24-7.
Ponderosa’s defense held on several other Husky excursions inside the red zone with Sheldon coming away with David Ortiz field goals.
The Bruins scored twice in the fourth quarter on 12 and seven-play drives, both resulting in a Tibbs touchdown.
Ponderosa honored its seniors prior to kickoff and its senior cheerleaders at halftime.