QB Zak Burden and RB Marcel Brown lift Rio Linda past host Timberwolves, who scored go-ahead TD with 2:24 left but gave up winning score with 11 seconds to go.
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Dropping down a division can have its benefits, but it still took a huge effort for Rio Linda to knock off No. 2 seed Sierra of Manteca 49-44 on Friday night in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division III quarterfinals.
The Knights, who lost to powerhouse Elk Grove in last year’s Division II section semifinals, scored the winning touchdown with 11 seconds left on a 24-yard TD pass from quarterback Zak Burden to receiver Jeremiah Hampton.
Rio Linda (10-2) had moved the ball to Sierra’s 5-yard line with 15.2 seconds left on a 19-yard run by Marcel Brown and called its final timeout. If Burden had not gotten the touchdown on that first pass or a second, the Knights would have attempted a game-winning field goal.
Sierra, which entered the game at 10-1 and was No. 5 in the CIF NorCal Division II bowl game rankings, took the lead with 2:24 left on a 9-yard run by junior Mark Paule Jr., but missed the PAT that made the score 44-42.
The Timberwolves also needed an interception in their own end zone with 3:51 left by Marcos Castillo to stop the Knights and give their offense a chance. The Sierra defense just couldn’t stop Rio Linda on its last drive.
“They have just as much talent as anyone we’ve played, even Elk Grove,” Burden said. “It just took a great effort by everyone to get this win.”
Burden added that he hopes the Knights will get another shot at top-seeded Inderkum of Sacramento (sitting at No. 4 in the NorCal D2 bowl rankings) in the section finals. Inderkum dealt a 62-21 loss to Rio Linda earlier in the season. Next week, the Knights travel to Oakdale while the Tigers will play Sacramento in the semifinals.
The senior quarterback upstaged senior teammate Brown, who was our NorCal Offensive Player of the Week for his 349-yard rushing game in the first-round of the playoffs. Burden completed 15 of 25 passes for 276 yards and four touchdowns. He also had 18 carries for 116 yards and one score and he caught a 23-yard TD pass from James Sanchez.
Brown still had a strong night as well. He took a swing pass for a 78-yard score on Rio Linda’s third offensive play of the game and ended with 21 carries for 199 yards and another TD.
For Sierra, Paule Jr. did score three times as a Wildcat QB in a power formation but was held in check by the Knights and only had 61 yards on 18 carries.
QB Devin Nunez instead was the player Rio Linda couldn’t stop. He completed 12 of 24 passes for 194 yards and one touchdown and rushed 17 times for 123 yards and one score.
Junior WR/DB Daniel Wyatt also stood out for Sierra. He caught a 37-yard TD pass from Nunez and ripped the ball out of the hands of one Rio Linda player and ran it back for a 30-yard touchdown.