Tough Sonora defense ready for big VOL test

Sonora High has the stout defense usually required to compete for the Valley Oak League title, but it's uncertain whether the Wildcats have the offense.

They held mighty Merced to 16 points -- the Bears average 34 points in their other games -- and beat Golden Valley and East Union by allowing each just one TD. Their offense, though, averages only 16 points per game.

Is that enough production in a league laden with potent offenses: Oakdale (47 points per game), Weston Ranch (37), Manteca (32) and Sierra (28)?

The answer could come tonight, when the No. 4 large-school Wildcats (3-1, 1-0) host Sierra (3-1, 1-0) in VOL play. With co-favorites Manteca and Oakdale still on the schedule, tonight's loser will face an uphill climb in the race for the league title.

Sierra's Mike Garcia has passed for 849 yards and six touchdowns, and last week tossed a 70-yard score to Avery White in the final minutes for a 34-28 win over Central Valley.

That plays into the Wildcats' strength. They have 12 sacks, four by lineman Glenn Gray, and Chance Carter has four of their eight interceptions.

In other featured 7:30 p.m. games:

Patterson (4-0) hosts Calaveras (3-1) in a showdown featuring two of the top small-school teams. The top-ranked Tigers have had No. 4 Calaveras' number, having beaten the Redskins three times in the last two years.

No. 3 small-school Escalon (3-1) welcomes Linden (3-1). Fullback Josh May made his season debut for Escalon last week, running for 172 yards.

Atwater (1-3, 1-0), after stunning Turlock in overtime last week, hosts Golden Valley (2-2, 0-0) in a Central California Conference matchup.

The Southern League won't open for another week, but co-favorites Turlock Christian and Mariposa hope to improve to 5-0: The Grizzles visit Modesto Christian (3-1) and the Eagles visit Ripon Christian (0-4).