Oscar Sepulveda wanted more. All of his Blue Devil teammates did.
After a gut-wrenching 17-10 loss to powerhouse Elk Grove on Friday, Sepulveda and his line brethren were assembled on the field, kneeling together in collective appreciation of what they meant to each other.
There were no dry eyes in the circle. Spent from the valiant season that was now over, there was only love.
“I did everything I could to make this team better.” Sepulveda said, pouring out his heart. “I love you guys. You guys are my brothers.”
Sepulveda, like the rest of the Davis High offensive and defensive linemen, has pushed his football team back into regional relevance.
Short in numbers, deep in heart, the Devils proved this is no longer a program to be taken lightly. After only seven victories over the past four seasons, DHS went 5-5 and gave the Division II favorite Thundering Herd everything it could stand and still escape with a win.
So what was the difference this fall?
“I don’t know where to begin,” Sepulveda said. “Coach (Steve) Smyte teaches us a lot more than football. He teaches you how discipline yourself and to make sure you’re always doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.
“What I learned is way bigger than football. It’s about being a family.”
Sepulveda, who moved to Davis when he was 10, has worked through many personal challenges and thanks football, Smyte, line coach Yijie Ge, his other coaches and his real-life siblings for all their support.
Sepulveda lives with his brother Francisco Vasquez and his wife, Claudia, nephews Daniel and Juan and niece Kayla.
He points to his brother Humberto Vasquez, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, for inspiration in his life’s next step — a possible career in the Corps — and embraces all of his teammates for their encouragement and friendship.
“My team means the world to me,” the 6-foot-3, 240-pound standout told The Enterprise. “They aren’t like my second family, they are my second family. I have (worked so) hard for this team; I was really happy when coach named me one of the captains this year.”
Countless hours in the weight room, reels and reels of film and an intense summer program were introductions to the season that saw the Blue Devils come this close to their first playoff game since 2007.
Sepulveda, who opened some huge holes when Davis had the ball Friday, shined brightly on defense as well.
His first-half-ending sack of Tommy Arnold killed an Elk Grove drive deep in Devil territory. He joined in on six other tackles and created an Arnold fumble in the third period.
“He’s had to overcome a lot of stuff,” Smyte says of his departing tackle. “He was a real leader in the offseason, a real leader among his teammates during the regular season and cares very much for those guys he plays with.
“I thought Friday was Oscar’s best game of the year.”
In the classroom, Sepulveda has been drawn in by U.S. government classes and the political scene: “I love learning about both … they’re pretty interesting.”
And so is Sepulveda, who has two sides to his larger-than-football persona.
“On the field he has been big for us … both ways. And in the locker room he’s definitely a leader,” DHS offensive line coach Charles Johnson once said of Sepulveda. “Off the field, he is caring … a really nice guy.”
A reunion with defensive coordinator/wrestling coach Ty Brown is possible when the mat season begins this week, but the personable Sepulveda says that’s a long shot: “For sure, I can be found in the weight room.”
And in the hearts of Blue Devil fans and your former teammates.
Semper fi, Big Guy.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-747-8047.