Enterprise staff writer
Limping into Delta Valley Conference play on Friday, this football season has become an exercise of heart and commitment for the surviving 20-something Blue Devils.
In a year that started with such promise, Davis High finds itself stalled with a 1-4 record, riddled by injuries and heading into the toughest part of its season.
One thing is certain, if prep football is a learning experience, those Devils still standing tall are receiving quite an education.
ÒI donÕt know what to tell you about injuries,Ó DHS coach Steve Smyte offers. ÒIÕve never seen so many missed games and practices due to injuries. When you have 30 guys (on the roster) and six arenÕt playing, that means you are moving people all over the place just to field a team.Ó
It goes a little deeper than that. The players who are being replaced arenÕt ordinary athletes. Plus, in some cases, injuries have impacted the replacements as well.
Case in point: Tailback Courtney Williams goes down, heÕs replaced by Tanna Stevens. Sophomore Stevens goes out, the Devils get Mike Romero. Romero, after doing a bang-up job Ñ for a little while Ñ is, well, banged up. Enter Dane Denkers.
Wait a secondÉ WasnÕt Denkers the starting quarterback earlier this year?
Exactly the point. Davis is playing a fourth-string guy at a position it thought it would have one of the best running backs in the region.
But itÕs any port in the storm when your battleship has four turrets malfunctioning, is taking on water and the hurricane that is the DVC looms dead ahead.
This Devil offense looked pretty scary when Williams, wide receiver Dillard Brown and tight end Peter Smith were available. None have played more than 15 minutes together since the second game against Sacramento.
Add to the misery an offensive line that coaches continue to patch because of injury. With the offense slowed to a crawl, a lot of pressure is being put on the defense Ñ which, by the way, is missing Smith and Brown, as well as nursing other timely wounds.
But take nothing away from players like Denkers. ItÕs that Heart and Commitment Thing that will come into play in real life for these guys. Working through this adversity, with the best effort possible, is something Smyte and his coaching staff have taught their besieged Devils Ñ knowing these lessons will come in handy later in life, if not Friday at 7:30 p.m.
ÒI canÕt be prouder of guys like Denkers and Brandon Hassid who have put their heart and soul into this team and have sacrificed personal desires for the good of the team,Ó Smyte points out. ÒThose guys will always be champions in my mind.Ó
Smyte believes he has a Òsmarter football teamÓ than what he saw eight weeks ago. He lauded the accomplishments of his handful of first-year football players Ñ like receiver Kristian Mackewicz Ñ who are Ògetting better each week.Ó
ÒWe have guys that have been great teammates and have stepped for us and are willing to do anything for the team. Guys like Dane, Brandon, Corey Nelson, Austin Day, Will Glaeser and Lucas Brattesani,Ó Smyte continues. ÒThey had to really step up and play away from their comfort zones É and they have.Ó
Smyte, despite losing to Oakmont, 26-9, Friday at Halden Field, thought his offense started strong again Ñ only to bog down in the redzone.
Due to those new Devil players Ñ and a handful of guys at different positions Ñ Smyte says the experience of the other teams shows itself when Davis knocks on the door.
ÒWeÕve had a lot of problems just pounding it in down there,Ó the first-year DHS head coach adds. ÒWe will continue to work on it and we will improve.Ó
Notes: Smyte doesnÕt like to talk to the press about his teamÕs injured players. He says he doesnÕt want the opposition to know their status and doesnÕt want injuries to sound like excuses. Stay tuned to find out FridayÕs statusÕ for Williams and Company. Maybe weÕll get a hint. ÉFranklin opens DVC with a 5-0 mark, including handing Yuba City its only loss.