Woodcreek football takes on pack mentality

Three running backs stepping up for Timberwolves
By: Bill Poindexter
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James Nunley accounted for 49 percent of Woodcreek’s yardage last season. Since seniors aren’t allowed to play a fifth year of high school football, however, he’s gone. The Timberwolves have an answer for the 2010 season – three, actually. Blake Cervantes, J.J. Nourth and Michael Blair are giving Woodcreek what coach John Hildebrand described as a “three-pronged attack” in the backfield as the Timberwolves’ season opener against Lincoln on Friday approaches. “That’s a position I’m most excited about,” said Hildebrand, whose team will test itself today in a scrimmage against almighty Folsom. The Timberwolves will try to compensate for the loss of Nunley’s 1,570 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns with three seniors, each of whom brings a little something different to the opposition when he has the ball. Cervantes, 6 feet 2 inches and 205 pounds, is “the lead guy,” according to Hildebrand. Cervantes had back-to-back 100-yard games to finish last season, and they came against Granite Bay in the regular-season finale and Folsom in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs. That’s nothing to sneeze at. Nourth (5’6”, 175) was the starting junior varsity tailback two years ago, and Blair (5’9”, 175) is back following an elbow injury last season. Hildebrand said Blair is playing fullback for the Timberwolves, “kind of a hybrid that does a little of everything, and he runs it very well.” “Even though we lost one of the best in the area, I like the three that are stepping in,” Hildebrand said. Handing off the ball will be junior quarterback Shaun Mize, and he can sling it, too. He has senior targets in receivers Derrick Kimball and Devon Murphy and returning starter Brandon Whitebear at tight end, “probably our strongest kid,” Hildebrand said. “We pride ourselves on being balanced. I say that every year, but we always had James,” Hildebrand said of Nunley, adding that Woodcreek feels comfortable with the progress of Mize. Protecting the skill players will be the biggest offensive line in Hildebrand’s four years at the school, including left tackle Jenner Lubinsky (6’4”, 265), center Mark Smith (6’0”, 208). Defensively, there is another Nunley wearing Woodcreek colors. Brother Geordan Nunley may not carry the ball, but he may intercept it. He’s a returning starter in the secondary. Also starting some last season were Ryan Kovach and Dylan Zuverink. Hildebrand also made mention of Stephen Meyer (5’11”, 165), “an undersized phenomenal kid who started last year,” and defensive end Ben Bevill (6’1”, 190). Of course, if a game comes down to a kicker, a precious commodity in the rugged Sierra Foothill League, returning first-team all-leaguer Bobby Reeves booted three 47-yard field goals last season. “The Sierra Foothill League has to be if not the best, one of the best in the state of California,” Hildebrand said. “Literally, there are dynasties in the league, dynasties going. Everyone you face is just unbelievably tough. It’s a battle every week.” Bill Poindexter can be reached at