The Denair High School varsity football team’s bid for a second straight CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII title fell short Friday night as they lost to Mariposa County High School in an overtime thriller, 17-14.
The season came to an end for the Coyotes (9-3) when the Grizzlies (8-4) sailed a game-winning field goal through the uprights from 29 yards out after four quarters of hard-fought football. It was sure to be a close game from the beginning; when the two Southern League teams met during regular season play in October, Denair scraped out a 14-13 victory.
“We played defense well, but shoot, man. Just lost the game. It was another close one,” Denair head coach Anthony Armas said. “I think both teams are probably arguing that they played great defense tonight. We did for the most part what we wanted to do, but I would’ve liked to score a couple more touchdowns.”
Things started off slowly for both teams offensively in the first half, with both schools heading into the locker room tied 0-0 at the half. Denair tallied 139 total offensive yards in the first half, and their defense held Mariposa to just 45. The Coyotes’ lone chance to score in the first half came on a 33-yard field goal attempt in the first, but the kick was no good.
“We came out a little tentative on offense,” Armas said. “We were kind of waiting for them to do something instead of just coming out and attacking. I think out kids were a lot more physical in the second half.”
Denair came out ready to score in the second half. Their dynamic running back duo of Jorge Yanez and Dylan De Silva made it 7-0 on their first drive of the third quarter, with a 56-yard pickup by Yanez setting up a 21-yard touchdown by De Silva on the following play.
On Mariposa’s ensuing possession, a fumble recovery by Denair linebacker Christian Obando gave the Coyotes the ball back on Mariposa’s 35-yard line. Yanez then picked up a 35-yard touchdown of his own to give Denair a 14-0 lead with 11 minutes left in the third.
The second-half lead didn’t last long — Mariposa answered back minutes later in the third with a monstrous 74-yard touchdown by running back Logan Donati, then followed with a 10-yard touchdown from Johnathan Chapman to tie the game 14-14 with 10 minutes left to play.
A 10-play drive by Denair was cut short by a fumble as they looked to respond with a score of their own, and on their next possession, Mariposa mishandled the hold on a 22-yard field goal attempt with just 30 seconds left in the game to send the championship contest into overtime.
Denair had first possession in overtime and failed to make a 38-yard field goal attempt, and the game ended with Mariposa’s 29-yard field goal.
The offenses were evenly matched in the second half, with Denair tallying 219 total yards compared to Mariposa’s 229. De Silva finished the night with 30 carries for 176 yards and one touchdown on the night, and Yanez had 15 carries for 139 yards and one touchdown.
Armas reflected on the season and his team, which will see over 15 seniors graduate this school year.
“We knew since we got these guys as freshmen that they were a pretty special group…they’re just everything you want in football players: hard working, great in the classroom and just good people,” he said. “It’s been an absolute joy to be around them and I think that’s why we’ve got the water works tonight.”
It was the second year in a row Denair has made it to the Section title game; last year, the team went on to win the CIF D-VII AA State Championship. The Coyotes’ recent success has renewed the town’s love for high school football in Denair, Armas said, and he hopes to build off the enthusiasm next season.
“It’s been pretty special on campus and in the community. When I was in school, it was a big football community and it’s nice to have that back,” Armas said. “It’s exciting to see little kids excited about Denair football, and the whole community getting interested and excited has been awesome.”
Catch full highlights and analysis of the game on The Blitz at www.turlockjournal.com.