When the Davis High football team travels to Grant on Friday, there will be story lines aplenty …
Will the following-day headlines read “Grieving Pacers Back on Track” or “Blue Devils Headed for the Playoffs”?
Will Grant running back Marquis Carter-Petit have a field day, or can DHS linebacker Brendan MacDonald and Company shut down their hosts — holding a sixth opponent to single-digit scores?
After back-to-back train wrecks against the Pacers, these Devils are different from recent past seasons.
Coming in with a 5-3 overall record (2-1 in Delta Valley Conference), the locals have pitched three shutouts and have a sleight-of-hand offense that also can pound the ball.
Having depth and talent can take a team a long way …
In 2010, head coach Steve Smyte remembers entering the Grant game with only 19 healthy Blue Devils, and suffering a 56-0 pasting on the road.
Last year — again with the herd thinned by injuries — the Pacers held Davis to fewer yards (56) than Grant got points (58) in another embarrassing shutout.
But the third-year mentor believes those games are ancient history.
“We know we’re playing for something,” Smyte said during a break in an enthusiastic practice Wednesday. “I’m impressed with the way we’re going after it this week. These guys know what’s at stake.”
Smyte doesn’t need to mention the P-word. Playoffs — something DHS hasn’t seen since 2007 — are at hand with a win over Grant. Three wins out of five conference games will allow Davis to advance.
Imagine, Grant — a team that just five years ago won a state championship and has eviscerated the Blue Devils 114-0 in the past two years — battling upstart DHS for the third DVC spot in the Division I tournament. The Pacers are 3-5 and 1-2 in league.
But there’s a long way to go if this dream sequence is to have a happy ending.
The Devils have to bottle up Carter-Petit, says Smyte, who adds: “It all starts with that running back. He’s a big-time guy. He’s a Pac-12 running back and we have to stop him. Otherwise, it’s a long night.”
But, Smyte told The Enterprise, Grant presents problems across the board.
Quarterback Isaiah Rios — who threw only nine passes in last week’s 14-7 win over Monterey Trail — threw for 214 yards and four touchdowns in the Pacers’ 34-26 loss to Franklin on Oct. 5.
“And they have two very good receivers (sophomore Darrion Jeffrey and senior Trayvon Henderson),” Smyte continues. “You can see the talent out there.”
But Grant has battled demons …
Former player John Bloomfield, who collapsed after Sacramento State’s season-opener at New Mexico, died on Sunday after a monthlong coma. Earlier this fall, Grant assistant coach Ed Coleman murdered his girlfriend before taking his own life.
And the Pacers have had a case of the yips on the field …
In the win over Monterey Trail, GHS offensive linemen were whistled 13 times for 140 yards of penalties. Eight interceptions by Rios have been compounded by six lost fumbles.
Stopping Grant is only one piece of the puzzle. Davis needs to play ball control — a successful style that has seen the locals average 34 points a game and own the clock.
A recent change — seeing former tailback Winfred Roberson frequently lining up at fullback — has paid dividends.
Last week, with Roberson convoying backs Austin Lampley and Wally Perez, the Devils danced past Laguna Creek, 27-0. Lampley and Perez each scored twice.
“He’s just a bigger body back there,” assistant coach Josh Reese said of the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Roberson. “He’s a strong guy and is able to move kids. With some of the linebacker/defensive ends sets we seek, we’ll have faster guys behind him.
“It’s a good fit for him. What it really comes down to is physiques.
“Plus, I think he could learn a little bit more if he talks to his dad. He needs to get a more downhill mentality.”
Roberson’s dad — Winfred Sr. — played fullback at Cal. The elder Roberson, who is the Davis superintendent of schools, had some Golden Bear named Marc Hicks (yes, that Marc Hicks) running behind him in the 1980s.
Reese — who carried the rock as a Blue Devil and at UC Davis — has been delighted with Roberson’s adjustment and the success of Lampley and Perez.
“(Austin) is a good kid. Very coachable, but he has a good attitude-spice to him, too,” Reese adds. “He listens and I like that he wears No. 22.”
22 — Reese’s old number
Now the coaches hope their Blue Devils all have Grant’s number.
Game time is 7:15 p.m.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at email@example.com or 530-747-8047.