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Coyotes come up short on senior night
denair football 1
Of the 19 players on Denair's varsity football roster, nine are seniors who were honored in the pregame ceremonies, including Anthony Pineda (Photo courtesy of Ethan Gonsalves, Denair High School).

Friday night was the final home game of the season for the Denair Coyotes as they took on the Grizzlies of Mariposa County, and it was also a night where their senior players were honored. Though smiles were bright and the vibes were good throughout the pregame, the same could not be said once the timeclock on the scoreboard showed zeroes.

The Coyotes were playing catchup from the very jump, as Grizzlies quarterback Taxtyn Weiland found wide receiver Johann Hill-zeck for a 57-yard touchdown to make it 7-0 less than one minute into the game. Denair came back strong though, as running back Isaac Villa Martinez ran in for a touchdown of his own. A missed extra point made it a 7-6 game.

The Grizzlies responded with a rushing attack of their own with star back Apollos Powell. Powell helped his team march down the field, with the following drive capped off by a 2-yard touchdown rush. Just as the Coyotes did, the extra point attempt failed and the game remained 13-6.

Once again, the Coyotes did not go down without a fight as the second quarter got underway as Martinez led his team on a long drive of their own, capped off with 5-yard rushing score. The Coyotes attempted to gain some lost ground with a 2-point try, but it was unsuccessful, leaving the score as 13-12.

Denair had an opportunity to grab the lead late in the second quarter, as quarterback Landen Borges completed a pair of passes to get them within striking distance of the endzone with less than a minute left to play in the half, but that is when the avalanche of mistakes came falling on the Coyotes.

With 15 seconds left in the half, a botched snap pushed the Coyotes out of the redzone. The home team recovered, but it wasn’t long until the ball was forced lose again by the Grizzlies defense. This time around, the Grizzlies recovered, and the Coyotes were left with the 13-12 deficit at halftime.

The Coyotes began the second half with the football, but a three-and out gave the ball right back to the Grizzlies, who capitalized when Weiland drove his team down and found Hill-zeck again for a 4-yard touchdown. Powell officially capped off the drive with a successful 2-point conversion rush to extend the Grizzlies lead to 21-12.

From that moment on, the game turned into a defensive struggle, with timely plays for both defenses paired with costly penalties for each of the offenses. Denair head coach Anthony Armas spoke about the costly errors after the game.

“That’s our season,” Armas said. “We have flashed where we’re really good, and we have other flashes where it’s not the team I recognize from practice. It’s frustrating not being able to put everything together because we had our chances.”

The final score stayed at 21-12. And while it was yet another close and disappointing loss for the Coyotes, Martinez continued to be the team’s bright spot as he rushed for 135 yards to go along with his two touchdowns on 26 carries.

As the Coyotes drop to 1-6 on the season, Martinez reflected about the highs and lows his team have gone through, and why he is determined to still put his head down and give it his all.

“I just think that if my line blocks for me, I have to get yards for them, if I don’t, what is the point of me being there or any of us still being on the field,” an emotional Martinez said. “It’s important to show, as a senior, all these years I’ve been playing has to come to something. I have to be able to show that all the hard work wasn’t for nothing. I want to show that I learned something these four years and I didn’t just wait my time.”

Armas also tipped his hat to his team, particularly the seniors on the night they were honored in the pregame.

“It’s been a weird four years with them, and I honestly feel bad for them at times. They had to deal with a pandemic in the middle of their year, but that’s just the hand we’ve been dealt. We really wish this season could have gone better, but at the same time, we get what we give. The losing does such, but they’re a great group of kids. I love those kids. They’ve been through some gnarly stuff, so there’s a special bond with those kids,” Armas said.

The Coyotes will look to get back on the right track next week when they take on Delhi, who are 3-4 on the season.