The Blue Devils were in a funk.
Following a four-game win streak, the Davis High football team lost on Homecoming to Monterey Trail, and got smacked the following week by Franklin, both times at Brown Stadium. Playing at Laguna Creek on Friday at Elk Grove, DHS knew it needed to respond.
And the Devils responded in a big way, using a huge scoring outburst in the second quarter to jump ahead, then holding on for a 28-21 Delta Valley Conference victory.
The biggest change for Davis (5-3, 1-2) this week was the guy under center, as head coach Marc Hicks made the decision to switch quarterbacks from junior Quinten Jones to senior Emilio Barba.
“You know sometimes when you lose two in a row, you gotta get that funk off you,” Hicks said. “We went for a change, to see if it would work out. It worked out. (Barba) is a senior, he’s a leader, and so we’re gonna go ahead and let him keep leading.”
After several unsuccessful drives to begin the first quarter, the locals took over on their own 25 with 2:44 left in the period. DHS found itself in a third-down situation once again, but this time junior receiver Nate Curtis made something happen, using some slick moves to turn a five-yard pass into a 37-yard gain.
From there, the Devils rode senior running back Winfred Roberson all the way home. Roberson converted three first downs on the drive, and finished it off by blasting his way into the end zone from one yard out. When Ian McKallip kicked the extra point to make it 7-0, Davis had it first lead since its Sept. 27 win over Woodland.
On the Cardinals’ (1-7, 0-3) ensuing drive, the Blue Devil defense forced a three-and-out to give the ball back to Barba and the local offense.
Again, the rushing attack was the focus, as Talek Deary, Roberson and Barba all got carries on the drive. And when DHS got into the red zone, it put the ball into the capable hands of Roberson, who finished with 134 yards rushing.
It was a familiar sight for Devil fans: Roberson took the handoff, trucked over a linebacker and dragged three defenders into the end zone for his second TD of the game. McKallip’s extra point made it 14-0 Devils with just over a minute left in the half.
Laguna Creek responded when quarterback Russell Williams Jr. turned a fumbled snap into a 36-yard gain. On the next play, Williams Jr. hit receiver Chris Williams with a pretty fade pass that went just over the outstretched hands of the DHS defense for a touchdown, cutting the local lead to 14-7.
Though just moments remained in the half, the scoring wasn’t finished as the speedy Deary fielded the kickoff on the 8-yard line, ran to the left side of the field, and did what no opponents want to see him do — get into fourth gear.
Deary flew down the sideline untouched to give the Blue Devils back their 14-point advantage.
Following the halftime break, Cardinal Jacobi Kelly’s 13-yard touchdown run was the only score of the third quarter, then Davis went back to work.
This scoring drive was The Nate Curtis Show as he caught a 39-yard pass to convert a third-and-23, before taking an end-around play to pay dirt, using a valiant second effort to get into the end zone with 11:10 to play.
Down 28-14, Laguna Creek took the ensuing kickoff 71 yards, then got a first down to set up first-and-goal from the Blue Devil 2. However, a DHS defense that has played some of its best football in short-field situations, did it again.
On first down, Williams Jr. tried to take the plunge on a quarterback keeper, but the Devil defense held strong.
On second down, Kelly was stuffed at the line of scrimmage.
On third down, Williams Jr. suffered the same fate.
And finally, on fourth and goal the pumped-up local defense swarmed running back Jaquan Brown-Collins, stuffing him for a loss of three.
“That’s as big as a stop as you’re going to see,” said Davis defensive coordinator Ty Brown. “28-14, (the) game is tight (and) if they get in right there it’s a whole different ball game. That was a huge stop, huge momentum for our defense.”
LCHS did manage a late touchdown, but the Blue Devils recovered the onside kick, ran out the clock and earned their first DVC win of the season.
“We showed a lot of heart (Friday),” Hicks said. “We didn’t let the referees get us down, we didn’t let silly penalties get us down, we kept fighting. I couldn’t be prouder of the men out here, the way they came back.”
Notes: Barba threw for 94 yards on just five completions — two of them to Curtis for 76 yards — and did not throw an interception. … Brendan MacDonald led the Devils with 5 1/2 tackles and a sack. Nash Nunes also recorded a sack.
— Reach Thomas Oide at firstname.lastname@example.org