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Sierra wins in overtime after letting lead slip away

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
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Sione Fuapau caused it, Clark Partridge recovered it and Courtney Gardner made it pay off Saturday afternoon for Sierra College’s football team in the Wolverines’ first road victory this season. “It” was a fumble by American River running back Bryce Pratt on the first play in overtime. Fuapau slammed into Pratt and knocked the ball loose. Partridge came out of a pile with the turnover. One play later, Tanner Mathias lofted a 10-yard touchdown pass to Gardner to give Sierra a 40-34 victory. The Wolverines are 2-2 with both victories coming against their Sacramento rivals. Sierra erased a 13-point halftime deficit to beat Sacramento City 45-16 on Sept. 18 in its home opener. The Wolverines trailed 17-6 at halftime Saturday before their offense finally got going. A 25-yard scoring pass from Mathias to tight end Michael Gray trimmed American River’s lead to 17-12 with 11:49 left in the third quarter. Then it was running back Zack Graves’ turn to provide a spark. The 2008 Whitney High School graduate had three carries for 67 yards on Sierra’s next possession. Graves capped the 79-yard drive with a 33-yard touchdown dash to give Sierra the lead. Graves made it 27-17 when he caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from Mathias with 1:22 left in the third. Mathias extended Sierra’s lead with a 32-yard scoring strike to Gardner early in the fourth. A 34-17 lead prompted Sierra head coach Jeff Tisdel to implore his troops not to become complacent. Whether it was complacency or fatigue on a warm afternoon, the Wolverines went flat. All the offense had to do was sustain drives and play keep-away, but Sierra managed just one first down in its next four possessions. Two touchdown passes by Chad Mason, the third quarterback to see action for American River, pulled the Beavers within 34-31 with 6:58 to play. After a Sierra punt with 1:44 left, American River moved into position for Zach Tapia to tie the score with a 47-yard field goal. Tapia kicked a 49-yarder on the final play of the first half and missed from 41 yards out in the third quarter. Sierra got the ball back with 51 seconds left, but Tisdel had Mathias kneel on two plays to run out the clock. Tisdel was willing to take his chances in overtime, and his decision proved to be a wise move. “You know how much I despise the Raiders, but it’s ‘Just win, baby,’” Tisdel told his team after the game. NOTES: Freshman James Crespo made his first start at center for the Wolverines in place of sophomore Casey O’Connor, who moved to left tackle. Adam Harmon started the season at left tackle, but a knee injury has sidelined the sophomore. … Sophomore cornerback Ketwaun Frank played despite his right hand heavily taped. He has a broken ring finger.