ELK GROVE — The Davis High football team’s hopes of making the playoffs for the first time since 2007 will have to be put on hold for one more year.
In Friday’s season finale, host Elk Grove took advantage of the Blue Devils’ slow start and went on to win, 35-7, and capture a share of the Delta Valley Conference title.
The Thundering Herd (9-1, 4-1) jumped on DHS (5-5, 1-4) on its opening drive, intercepting Emilio Barba’s pass. Manny Scott Anderson made the Devils pay just four plays later by taking a toss 9 yards to paydirt.
On Elk Grove’s next drive, the Herd steadily plowed its way into Davis territory, using running backs Spencer Sheff and Scott Anderson. However, with EGHS threatening on the 12-yard line, quarterback Tommy Arnold fumbled the snap and Blue Devil senior Tyler Roberts was there to pounce on it.
But the Herd came right back and forced a turnover of their own, turning a blown running play into a fumble. Elk Grove lineman B’won Canada recovered the ball as it trickled into the end zone, putting his team up 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.
As the second period began, DHS started with the ball on its 6-yard line. Senior running back Winfred Roberson ran hard, picking his yards up in chunks. Although the Devils were eventually stopped at the Elk Grove 46, they still showed the ability to move the ball on the vaunted Herd defense. According to head coach Marc Hicks, some changes in play calling helped and hurt Davis:
“We changed up our sheet a little bit,” said the first-year head coach. “That was kind of my fault because we tried to do something a little different to keep (Elk Grove) off balance. Most of it worked but, we made some flubs and we got caught with our pants down because of it. And I take the hit on that.”
Roberson finished with 69 rushing yards on the night and ended his senior season with 818 yards and seven touchdowns.
Five plays after Roberson and the local offense was stopped, EG receiver Scott Anderson waltzed into the end zone with 16-yard scoring pass from freshman quarterback Tyler Vander Waal.
The young quarterback looked impressive all night, but couldn’t avoid lockdown cornerback Joey Dossa on the Herd’s next ensuing drive. Clearly not paying attention to Dossa’s athleticism, Vander Waal threw up a jump ball and the Blue Devil standout stretched out his arms over the Elk Grove receiver to grab his third interception of the season.
The Herd went on to score two more touchdowns, but DHS made sure it had something to hold on to going into the offseason.
With 3:15 remaining in the game, which by then was on a running clock, Barba and the Devil offense went to work for one last time.
Talek Deary’s 8-yard reception was followed by a 5-yard catch by Andre Foster, then a 4-yard grab by Wally Perez.
After two incompletions, and the clock still running, Davis made a last-ditch effort to score. Wideout Nate Curtis ran over the top of the Herd secondary and Barba lofted up a pass that his junior receiver caught, and took to the house.
At the end of their Blue Devil careers, senior standouts like Roberson, Eli Castro (four tackles), Marvin Grant (four tackles and a sack), lineman Bailey Murray and team leader Brendan MacDonald, among others, went out with a bang despite the loss.
“I don’t know,” an emotional MacDonald said when asked to reflect on his Blue Devil career. “It’s hard for me to think that I will never put on a Blue Devil uniform again. You know …”
DHS defensive coordinator Ty Brown jumped in: “I’m sorry to interrupt, but what this kid (MacDonald) has meant to this program, words cannot explain. In my opinion, this kid is one of the five greatest players to ever grace this school’s campus. And that includes Hicks, Fisk and a number of others. We’re not going to see another kid like him very soon. He’s a once in a generation player.
“We loved everything that this kid stood for,” Brown added. “Whatever college program is lucky enough, and I emphasize the words fortunate and lucky enough, to have this young man on their team. That program will be 100 percent better for having this kid on their roster. I can guarantee you that.”
Hicks was also proud of the way his team played.
“I love these guys, that’s what I take away,” Hicks said. “These guys fought hard, they played hard, they tried. They made a few mistakes, but we all made mistakes, I made a few mistakes as a coach. I feel bad for the outgoing group of seniors, great group of kids. I’ve been with most of them since they were really little.
“But we’ve got a junior class coming back, we’ve got a lot of young guys that will be coming up. Our future as a Blue Devil Nation is very bright.”
— Reach Thomas Oide at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterThomas