Davis High football coach Marc Hicks declined to say what separated junior Quinten Jones in a quarterback competition with senior Emilo Barba that lasted most of preseason practice.
“He’s our choice,” the first-year head coach said of 5-11, 185-pounder.
But Blue Devil fans won’t have to wait long to learn the answer, as DHS heads to Yuba City for its season opener on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Last season, the Honkers were the upstart team in the area, boosting their record from three wins in 2011 to nine wins in 2012.
This year, the Devils want to do exactly what Yuba City did last season. But in order for DHS to do just that, it will have to get over the first hurdle on Friday — a Honker squad that Hicks expects to be similar to last season’s group:
“I expect them to have great athletes and I expect them to come at us like they did last year: straightforward,” Hicks said. “We watched them on film, it didn’t seem like they changed much, but you never know until we get into the game. I expect them to be physical, but I don’t think they will be as good as last year because they lost some great athletes, and they have a younger group this year.
“But it’s still Yuba City, they’re going to be good.”
When Hicks says “straightforward,” he means that the Honkers run a no-frills, run-heavy attack.
In 2012, 76.6 percent of YCHS’s plays were on the ground as the Honkers plowed their way to a stunning 46 rushing touchdowns on the season. In last year’s opener against the Blue Devils, YCHS steamrolled the locals for 442 yards, averaged nearly 11 yards per carry, and scored seven rushing touchdowns in a 48-21 win.
In order to slow down the Honkers ground assault led by running back Omar Herrera (10.93 YPC, eight touchdowns), DHS will need a quality performance from its entire defense.
That mean’s the Devil defensive line — ends Jonah Williams and Nash Nunes, nose tackle Bailey Murray and defensive tackle Zac Slavich — must dominate the point of attack so their teammates can get into the backfield.
Against the run-oriented attack, Davis linebackers Brendan MacDonald, Eli Castro and converted defensive end Marvin Grant are prepared to play sideline-to-sideline defense, with an eye on blowing up big plays before they can start.
Meanwhile the local secondary, which is occupied by free safety Bailey Yarrow, “Beast back” Nate Curtis and cornerbacks Joey Dossa and Barba, will have to be on their toes — last year Yuba City had the ability to punish teams that put too many guys in the box by throwing over the top. In a game against Placer, the Honkers threw for three touchdowns using this tactic.
Dossa and Barba will specifically have to watch for Devin Pettengill, who was second on the team in receiving with 276 yards last season, and two-way star Jaylon Deas, who also plays linebacker for the Honkers.
On the offensive side of the ball, Hicks will demand balance and consistency.
“On offense, we’re looking to be steady,” said the former star running back for DHS. “We’re looking to not have turnovers, not have three-and-outs and then have to punt, and we’re looking to control the football and the line of scrimmage.”
The strong-armed Jones, who Hicks describes as more of a pocket passer than a runner, will have to be ready and willing to throw the ball downfield, a skill Hicks stressed throughout camp that he was looking for from his signal-caller.
To set up the deep ball, Jones will have the privilege of handing the ball off to a solid group of running backs, paced by 2012 All-Delta Valley Conference second-teamer Winfred Roberson, and backup Wally Perez, who also performed well last season in a similar role.
Although All-DVC first team wide receiver C.K. Hicks is out for the season with an injury suffered over the summer, Jones still has plenty of reliable pass-catching options including receiver Dossa, H-back Castro and tight end MacDonald.
And to top it all off, Jones will be protected by a top-notch line. Hicks and lead assistant Ty Brown have labeled the group as one of the better they have had in recent years.
“Our team’s ready,” Hicks said. “The guys are excited and I know the coaching staff is excited. We’re just ready to go; we’re ready to actually start playing instead of beating each other up the whole time. That gets old after a while you know; it gets monotonous.
“We’re ready to go and face new challenges.”
— Reach Thomas Oide at email@example.com