Wolverines look for consistent improvement with new group of talent on offense

player running from opposing team ready to pass football.
Credit: Allene and Frank Salerno https://leniespictures.smugmug.com/

If there is one thing sure about creating a successful football program it's that there will be plenty of challenges and obstacles along the way. Sierra College's Ben Noonan is entering his 10th season as the head coach and is coming off of the heels of his fourth consecutive postseason appearance following a 6-5 record in 2022.

The Wolverines began the 2022 season 6-1 and were ranked top five in the state. In Week 8, the Wolverines led 21-20 against Butte when All-American quarterback Michael Wortham went down with a shoulder injury. Being down Wortham and Nik Goodwin, their other quarterback who got injured the week prior, the Wolverines struggled and weren't able to win another game. 

Now, one year later, Sierra has two new quarterbacks ready to step up and lead the Wolverines to success. Cruz Herrera transferred from Delta College after passing for over 1,700 yards and 10 touchdowns in his freshman year. Oak Ridge 2023 graduate Maddox Varella is also joining the squad after leading the Trojans to a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I title game and throwing for 29 touchdowns. 

At wide receiver is Trey Henry, the only returning receiver with game experience who caught four receptions for 23 yards and a touchdown. Joining Henry will be another 2023 Oak Ridge graduate Sebastian Sutton. Sutton totalled 530 yards and six touchdowns for the Trojans during his senior year. 

Jesse Espinoza is the only returning starter on offense and will look to anchor a young offensive line. At running back is Jayr Ramirez, a gray shirt running back in 2022 who was a dual sport athlete at Williams High.

While there is a lot of new talent on offense, there are a number of returners on defense such Amir Lemmons who led the way in 2022 with 72 tackles and was a unanimous All-Big 8 Conference selection. Another player in the secondary is Lanar Kelley who started all games in 2022 and had three interceptions. At linebacker is Jonathan Brown who led the Wolverines in sacks last season.

"Jonathan has emerged as a top linebacker performer this fall camp and is one of the smartest football players on our roster," Noonan said. 

Defensive linemen Brad Rankin and James Murphy will both return after starting all games last season. Sierra will also return Jalen Bryant, a starter on the 2021 team. 

The Wolverines will kickoff their 2023 season on Saturday at home against the defending state champion, College of San Mateo, at 1 p.m. 

"The short-term goal is to continue growing our bond as a football team and get better every week," Noonan said. "We have a lot of new faces on the offensive side of the ball and we need to see progress from them each and every pre-season/non-league game. The long-term goal is to peak as a football team in conference play for the final five weeks of the season and get to the playoffs. In 2021 we were one win away in the last game of the season and last season, 2022, we were two wins away from making the four-team playoffs and had to settle for bowl games."