DENAIR — For the Denair High football team, the game-changing moment happened just seconds after the fourth quarter started.
And that moment resulted in two nearly motionless bodies on the Denair High field.
The two Delhi High Hawks did manage to eventually walk off the field with assistance from their coaches and teammates, but the damage was done. The culprit was Denair senior Jacob Wagner, whose raging 5-foot-11, 180-pound frame smashed hard into the bodies of Aaron Saavedra (the rusher) and Juan Contreras (a blocker) almost at the same time on a kick return.
That play was the defining moment in the Coyotes’ 41-27 win over Delhi in the Southern League opener on Friday night.
“You hit someone like that,” Wagner said, “it’s going to change the game.”
And the Coyotes (1-0 SL, 2-2 overall) needed a game-changer on this night, especially in a contest that saw them down 20-6 early in the second quarter before they went on a rampage. Denair punched in 35 straight points all the way until late in the fourth quarter.
During that span, Brad Tobin rushed in a 43-yard score, Dylan Souza marched in three touchdowns of 2, 3 and 48 yards and Jose Galvan blazed past Delhi defenders for a 65-yard TD — not to mention having Galvan grab an interception and the Coyotes later recovering a fumble.
Oh, there was also that devastating hit by Wagner.
“That kind of woke up our guys,” Denair coach Therion Gregory said. “That was how we should have been playing from the beginning.”
Cory Vargas led a determined Delhi team — which entered Friday night with a 1-2 overall record and two previous losses to the Coyotes by a combined 110-14 — in the first drive of the game, finishing it with a 7-yard TD toss to Dalton Gill. After a 75-yard kick return touchdown by Denair’s Colin Sosa, the Hawks responded with touchdown runs of 15 and 73 yards by junior running back Antonio Cervantes to take a 20-6 lead with 11 minutes, 47 seconds left in the first half.
“We weren’t aggressive on them,” Gregory said about the Coyotes’ lack of execution early on. “We were playing back on our heels and next thing you know, they finish off a run and another guy finishes off another run. My main thing was to stay focused, and we can come back from this. They weren’t really threatening us. We were just making our own mistakes.”
And after three straight touchdowns, the Coyotes were in charge with a 27-20 edge after Galvan’s score with 11:50 left in the game. Then came that demoralizing hit by Wagner, who celebrated with his teammates on the sideline. The game, however, took a quiet turn when the two Delhi players laid nearly motionless on the ground. It turned out that they were more shaken than seriously hurt, seeing that they were able to walk off the field.
After that, Souza ran for his scores from 3 and 48 yards out en route a 125-yard night on the ground.
“I don’t know what happened in the first half,” said Galvan, who only had 2 yards in the first two quarters before finishing with 180 rushing yards on the night, “but we have to play the whole game.”
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