Last year’s matchup between the Denair and Delhi varsity football teams came down to overtime, but this year’s game came down to an onside kick.
The visiting Coyotes (2-2 overall, 1-0 SAL) walked away with a 20-14 win over the Delhi Hawks (3-1 overall, 0-1 SAL) for their league opener.
The opening drive pushed Delhi all the way to Denair’s 1-yard line where the Coyotes defense caused a goal-line stand and Delhi was unable to punch it in.
“I wish our offense could’ve got started a little sooner, but that opening drive for our defense was huge,” said Denair head coach Anthony Armas.
Delhi was first on the board, however, with a quarterback read option that sent Louie Avalos up the middle from about 10 yards out with 9:58 left in the second quarter. Denair answered seconds later when quarterback Juan Barrera ran for 56 yards up the gut to cap all scores at the first half, 7-6 Denair.
Delhi had a pair of powerful runs from Jesse Flores, and Avalos followed with a 40-yard run to set the Hawks at the opposing 13-yard line. A fumble in the end zone was recovered by Denair for a touchback, as it had seemed the Hawks were seconds from scoring before the ball was dislodged from Flores.
“...there’s no other way to put it, we just shot ourselves in the foot,” said Delhi High head coach Rod McCombs. “We had a huge first half going, we just didn’t finish when we needed to.”
Denair’s Justin Steeley and Juan Barrera combined for a great 1-2 punch combo in rushing, but Barrera was questioned to return at the end of the first half.
“I was going through cramps and then all of the sudden my body was kind of just shutting down,” said Barrera. “Then I went into the second half just fighting through it and we made it.”
Both teams had a very similar tempo for the game, a rushing attack with few passing attempts.
The defense was strong once again to open the second half of play as Denair and Delhi settled for punting on their opening drives.
With 5:14 left in the third quarter, Barrera ran down the left side of the field for 42 yards, followed by a two-point conversion to sway the score 14-7. Delhi’s fumble on the following drive was another huge play for Barrera as he recovered it for 65 yards on another touchdown.
“The first touchdown run I just wanted more,” said Barrera. “On the second one, I just felt like that sealed the win, so I was really happy.”
Flores returned a kickoff to the 8-yard line with 1:17 left in the game, and Avalos brought it to the one-yard line where Flores punched it in. A pair of penalties forced Delhi to kick a 30-yard point after touchdown to finalize the score at 20-14.
An onside kick was Delhi’s only hope of a comeback, and the Coyotes recovered it for the win.
“I told them ‘hey, we still time to play and there’s still some things that we can do,’” said McCombs. “They believed it and that’s why we came back out there, looking for something to go in our favor—it just seems that the football gods were not in our favor tonight.”