The undefeated Hawks of Delhi swarmed into Denair High territory on Friday night in a Southern Athletic League clash and expected to roll through the Coyotes' 16 players on homecoming — however, that wasn’t the case.
Denair once again, with just 16 players, and without starting quarterback Kyle Prock, focused on the team’s game plan and executed it flawlessly, especially on defense as they fought physically against Delhi and ultimately came away with the third shutout of the year in a 14-0 final.
“Honestly, we played how we practiced this week… we had a terrible week of practice,” said Delhi offensive coordinator Erik Martinez. “Thursday was our best week of practice, it was just walk-throughs, it was a bad week, the mistakes we made tonight, we did all week long and our guys thought that Denair would just be a cake walk, but Denair came in and punched us in the mouth.”
Delhi was held to 159 total yards of offense for the game.
“I was talking to the kids about the adversity we face,” said Denair head coach Anthony Armas. “With the numbers it’s the constant problem, and last week losing our quarterback really hurt us and it was the constant of adapting, our coaches and players, impress me every week.”
It’s a dilemma that the team has had to deal with week in and week out with short numbers, but it didn’t scare them against a Delhi team that had 39 players on the roster.
Delhi standout Jesse Flores was out with an ankle injury for the majority of the game, contributing to the Hawks tallying just 41 second half yards.
“Personally I don’t think it was a big factor not having Jesse because we been well off the last two weeks without him, it’s just we came in overconfident and they brought us back down to earth,” said Martinez.
Brought down to earth could be an understatement for a team that was chasing history, looking for the program’s first eight-win season in school history.
That will have to wait, at least for another week, after Denair’s defense controlled the tempo of the game.
The Coyotes managed to come away with seven turnovers, including four interceptions and three forced fumbles. They tallied 191 yards of offense.
Although the offense was limited on both sides, only Justin Steeley saw success after the senior rushed for 100 yards on 11 carries and scored the only two touchdowns for the game, including a two-point conversion.
Steeley rushed for a 74-yard score with 5:41 left in the first quarter on the Coyotes second drive and went up 6-0 after a missed two-point conversion.
Denair didn’t score again until the clock read 2:33 in the third quarter after Steeley busted loose again, this time up the middle for a 17-yard run and added the two-point conversion to give the Coyotes the 14-0 lead.
Denair managed to get three interceptions in the final 14 minutes of play and kept the team’s playoff hopes alive after shocking Delhi at home.
“We played good assignment football,” said Armas. “We got after people and got good leverage on them. They tried throwing the ball on us, which we knew if we could stop them up front we could stop them since our secondary is good this year. We want to force teams to throw it and they came through.”
Denair improves to 5-3 overall and 3-2 in league games. In all three league wins, Denair shutout its opponents.
Delhi falls to a 7-1 overall as the loss is the team’s first of the season and first SAL loss of the year, which gives them a 4-1 league record.
Delhi used three quarterbacks for the game after starter Alecxis Miranda struggled as well as Aiden Rocha. Anthony Mejia saw a few snaps in the fourth quarter.
Denair’s next game will be on the road against Mariposa at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Delhi will look to rally in the SAL hunt when they take on undefeated Orestimba (5-0) at home at 7:30 p.m. Friday.