Missing Link OK for Sonora

SONORA -- The scouting report on Sonora High's football team was that the key to victory was keeping Dan Link out of the end zone.

To correct that notion, here's Dan Link, who did not get to the end zone in the Wildcats' 17-7 victory over Sierra.

"This team is a whole lot more than me, for sure," Link said. "We have a lot more talent than everybody thinks we have."

Despite being kept from scoring, Link got his share of the yardage, carrying a bruising 26 times for 134 yards, giving him 1,060 yards this season.

But the Sonora stars were everywhere. Quarterback Ryan Emerald ran for 46 yards, completed two of four passes for 32 yards and a score, kicked two extra points and added a 32-yard field goal with 3 minutes, 13 seconds, remaining that iced Sonora's homecoming night victory.

The win put Sonora right back in the thick of the Valley Oak League race. The Wildcats and Timberwolves now share identical 6-1 overall records and both are 3-1 in league play.

"They put us in assignment conflict and we had a couple breakdowns for big runs, and you have to hand it to them -- Link is a fine runner and their line out-physicaled us," said Sierra coach Jeff Harbison. "The scoreboard shows it."

Sonora scored on its third possession, moving 90 yards in seven plays, capped by a 55-yard skirt off the right side by Irl Barajas for a 7-0 lead.

Sierra tied the game right before halftime, moving 46 yards after a short punt. It was the only time the Timberwolves' passing game found consistency, as quarterback Adrian Valencia connected on four straight passes, including an 18-yard scoring strike to Anthony Hall.

Harbison thought the score, which came with 59 seconds left in the half, would give his team momentum after the break.

"I thought it would," Harbison said. "We went in and made a couple of adjustments, but they didn't seem to help a whole lot. On both sides of the ball, they hit us hard. They wouldn't let our receivers off the line."

Sierra's offense was stifled in the second half, gaining only 69 yards and three first downs.

Sonora took the lead for good with 2:29 left in the third quarter at the end of a 75-yard drive. The scoring play was somewhat of a fluke, as Emerald scrambled to the left, the stopped and threw a deep ball back across the field -- the cardinal sin of quarterbacking.

But Eddy Cruz was standing at the back of the end zone to grab the pass for the lead.

At that point in the third quarter, Sonora had run 15 plays to Sierra's four, and the Timberwolves' defense was beginning to show signs of fatigue.

"Our whole game plan was to maintain ball control and win the time of possession," Link said. "That was the whole thing, and I'm not being cocky but we worked our tails off and we did that well tonight."

After taking the lead, Sonora was able to keep the chains moving on the ground in each of its final three possessions, but didn't clinch the game until Emerald's field goal.

The Wildcats finished with 299 rushing yards in 61 carries, and overall outgained Sierra 331-222. Sierra running back Jarrod Daniels finished with 67 yards on 15 carries, but did not have a carry in the fourth quarter.

"Sierra is a heck of a team," Link said. "There's no doubt in my mind that they're good and physical. It was a very tough game."