Yuba City running back Omar Herrera took a hand-off, escaped the Davis High linemen who had gotten into the backfield, then beat the entire Blue Devil back seven with a single cut, made at an angle seemingly immeasurable by a protractor. And as soon as he performed that ankle-breaking cut, Herrera hit top speed in a matter of seconds to fly into the end zone and put the Honkers up 33-0.
Such was life for the DHS football team in its season opener at Yuba City on Friday, as the Honkers steamrolled over the Devils, eventually winning 40-0.
In Marc Hicks’ first game as Davis head coach, it was YCHS that came out fast, as receiver Austin Thompson made sure that the Honkers started their season the right way. On Yuba City’s opening drive, Thompson rushed for 14 yards and had a 40-yard catch to set up his own touchdown run, giving the Honkers a lead they would not relinquish.
YCHS needed just 49 seconds to score on their next possession, taking advantage of an alignment error by the Blue Devils that allowed Thompson to take a simple screen pass 63 yards to the house. Even though the Honker conversion failed for the second straight time, they still led 12-0.
“We have to be ready for every scenario, they threw on us and we have to stop it,” said DHS free safety Bailey Yarrow. “It’s a learning experience, and we lost pretty bad. We just have to work really hard in practice and get better each day.”
YC went on to score two more touchdowns and pull ahead 26-0 after just one quarter. Herrera’s touchdown run, which came midway through the second quarter, put the game out of reach.
Although Yuba City played extremely well, senior leader Bailey Murray, a Devil offensive lineman, put the loss squarely on the shoulders of the Davis players.
“We need to work together as a team instead of being individuals,” Murray said. “I felt during this game we were all being individuals and you can’t win games like that.”
After rushing for 442 yards and seven touchdowns to beat the locals 48-21, in last year’s season opener, Yuba City bulldozed the Blue Devils again Friday, running for 278 yards and five TDs. Four of the five scores came on plays of 18 yards or more.
“The long runs that they did have, if you look at the tape, we had the guy in the backfield and we just did not tackle well,” said DHS defensive coordinator Ty Brown. “We let him escape out of tight situations when we had three or four defenders around him and let the guy scoot out and get an extra five or six (yards). And that let (Yuba City) extend drives which made it difficult for us.”
It also didn’t help that the Devils lost star middle linebacker Brendan MacDonald and defensive end Jonah Williams to first-half injuries, and neither returned to play.
“(The loss of Williams and MacDonald) was big,” Brown said. “We say, ‘the next guy up’ and the next guy should be up, but you know (MacDonald) is an all-conference player, (Williams) is a future all-conference player. Any team will have a hard time replacing two all-conference; that’s tough for a pro team, a college team, and a high school team especially.”
While the Davis defense struggled, the offense had problems of its own. The Blue Devils struggled both through the air and on the ground, finishing with just 101 total yards.
According to Hicks, the offensive woes came mostly because of fixable mistakes:
“I think we just had a lot of mental mistakes. We were dialed in; it was just mistakes. (It was) guys not lining up right, guys forgetting what the call was, going to the wrong hole, fumbling — it was collective; every facet of the game we couldn’t get going. I will take that hit because I am the head coach, but I will correct that, and we start correcting everything (Saturday morning).”
Despite the tough loss, Hicks saw several things that DHS can use as stepping stones for growth.
Yarrow was a huge spark on special teams, averaging 27.2 yards per return, including a 53-yard scamper in the first quarter.
And, although the Blue Devils only recovered two of them, they managed to force four fumbles. This was especially promising since Hicks has stressed throughout the preseason that turnovers will be key to Davis’ success.
That Devil defensive unit came on as the game progressed, allowing only two Honker touchdowns in the final three quarters.
But the most important thing for the Blue Devils, will be using the loss as a way to get better.
“(This loss) was just a stepping stone,” Hicks said. “It’s a loss. Losses happen. I don’t like it, the team doesn’t like it, my coaching staff doesn’t like it; but they happen. And so what really matters is what we do … all week to get ready for the next game.”
Brown added: “This is a group with some good character. We’ve instilled a lot in these guys in the last few years. Coach Hicks has talked a lot about having the resolve, having the mental fortitude to get through a tough situation. We got spanked (Friday night), we got our butts kicked. But we’re gonna bounce back and we’re gonna come forward from this and be a much better team.”
— Reach Thomas Oide at email@example.com