Enterprise staff writer
Just when you know theyÕre finished for the season … Whap! Something clicks into gear.
And even though Davis HighÕs football team ended up losing, 45-37, it became a Senior Night to remember.
Trailing 27-0 in the first half at Ron & Mary Stadium on Friday, the Blue Devils were dead and buried against visiting Elk Grove.
Then, DHS head coach Steve Smyte took a time-out at an unusual moment.
When Robert Frazier went in for touchdown from six yards out, putting the Thundering Herd (4-5, 1-3 Delta Valley Conference) up four scores, Smyte sat his entire squad down before the ensuing kickoff. He told them, ÒThis isnÕt who we are.Ó
Smyte told his players and coaches that they were not going to send their seniors out this way: ÒWeÕre better than this.Ó
It wasnÕt fire and brimstone. It was a reminder. In fact, at first, it looked like it had failed. Shortly after the talk, Elk GroveÕs Deon Ransom scored to make matters worse at 33-0.
But when quarterback Shayne ReaganÕs touchdown pass to Majed Eddin with just 13 seconds left before intermission shook the cobwebs from the Devils, it was a prelude to a
second-half performance that Smyte called Òthe best in this stadium IÕve seen since IÕve been a teacher at the school.Ó
SmyteÕs in his ninth year at Davis.
Down 33-7 at the break, the Blue Devils outscored the Herd 30-12 the rest of way to nearly come back and avoid losing their eighth straight outing.
ÒLesser teams would have given up,Ó Smyte explained, noting he was disappointed to be down so much, so early. ÒGoing in, we were beat up from the Grant game. But when we got that touchdown in the two-minute drive before halftime … then came out and scored on the first possession of the second half, we got with it.Ó
Curiously, when Elk Grove went up 33-0, Herd head coach Chris Nixon called for an onside kick. It didnÕt travel far enough and DHS took over at midfield and drove for its first touchdown.
Smyte said he didnÕt care and didnÕt think it entered the psyche of the team: ÒWe worry about what we can control.Ó He said his team just took care of business better in the second half Ñ regardless of motivation.
The Blue Devils (1-8, 0-4 DVC) opened the third period with a five-play, 56-yard drive that ended with senior Dillard Brown catching a four-yard strike from Reagan. Senior Sammy HouckÕs second of three extra points made it 33-14 with only 2:37 gone in the second half.
On the drive, DavisÕ gimpy tailback Courtney Williams, another senior, broke a 31-yard run on the first play of the drive. It was his longest gain since the Sacramento game in early September. Williams, who missed four games before rushing for eight yards in seven tries against Grant last week, was given the ball 17 times for 86 yards.
Williams said he was pretty sore, but happy to contribute on Senior Night. Noticeably limping during the game, the sprint champion has been bothered by a deep thigh bruise.
But once again on defense Ñ as has been the case all season Ñ DHS was susceptible to the big play, this time a 38-yard TD by Elk GroveÕs Chris Edwards. Re-established at 39-14, it looked like the Herd were Thundering to the finish line.
Not against these Devils …
On the next possession, tight end Peter Smith outleaped his defender at the Elk Grove 20 and sprinted into the end zone for what became a 61-yard scoring pass from Reagan.
Next, a seemingly gassed DHS defense forced the Herd to punt (for only the second time of the night) and the locals went on The Drive to Nowhere.
Over the next 7:21, Davis ran 17 plays, baby-stepped 64 yards and fizzled when ReaganÕs six-yard, fourth-down completion to Smith came up several yards short at the Elk Grove 22.
Once again, the Blue Devils held on downs and embarked on another long drive. This time they found gold when Reagan hit Eddin with a 40-yard bomb Ñ a pass that was tipped by corner Edwards, but never eluded the senior receiverÕs sight. Smith caught ReaganÕs two-point conversion strike and, with 2:20 remaining, it was 39-29.
A failed onside kick set up the Thundering Herd at the Devil 48. Again, that darn big play. Ransom rumbled to paydirt on the first play from scrimmage and things were out of reach.
There was, however, enough time to have Reagan stand alone in the Blue Devil record books.
Starting at its own 31 with two minutes remaining, Davis used seven plays to have Brown capture ReaganÕs 15-yard Golden Ticket with 26 ticks to spare. The TD pass was ReaganÕs school-record fifth of the game. And when Smith again caught ReaganÕs conversion pass, it was 45-37 and the Devils had one more flicker of hope.
But when the ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, Elk Grove took a knee and skedaddled.
Reagan finished the night with 293 yards passing on 22-of-41. He wasnÕt intercepted. His five touchdowns erase the shared school record of four by Jim Speck (1972) and Brian Wernicke (1988).
Linebacker/lineman Derrick Coronado, like many of his DHS teammates, was physically and emotionally spent after the game.
When it looked most bleak early, Coronado had four solo tackles in the first half and punted well. He was that Ònever-quitÓ kinda guy that Smyte talks so much about.
But a tearful Coronado couldnÕt hold it in any longer. He was used up Friday.
ÒThis has been the best experience of my life,Ó the senior said afterwards. ÒHeÕs (Smyte) the best IÕve ever had. I love these guys. TheyÕre family to me.Ó
One more game. Friday at Monterey Trail. You up for it, Derrick? After what the Blue Devils did on Senior Night, your fans sure are.
Notes: From The Goodbye Dept.: After the game, the Elk Grove bus drive decided to gun its engine in the DHS parking lot, zooming along for about 20 yards while honking the horn. With windows down, shouting and ringing cowbells, students and players werenÕt very neighborly leaving. Coupled with the 33-0 onside kick, thereÕs probably room for improved Herd decorum. .. Dance team, Pep Squad and senior players and their families were honored before the game (cornerback Brent Martin missed the night, staying home with a concussion). Reagan and lineman Blair Kittle joined the Jazz Choir in singing the national anthem. … Ransom finished with 165 yards and three scores.