The Denair High varsity football team kicked their postseason off with a bang Friday night as an impressive run game lifted them over Le Grand High, 21-14.
“It was a hard-fought game. It feels good,” Denair quarterback Elvis Silva said. “Any win feels good, but especially a playoff game. Being a senior, you never know when this is going to end. We get to fight another week.”
After a first-round bye, the Coyotes (9-2) went head to head with the Bulldogs (6-6) in a physical game that saw six personal fouls called throughout — four by Le Grand and two by Denair. It was a testament to just how much the game meant to both teams, and after the win, the defending CIF D-VII AA State champions will head to the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section title game for the fourth time in school history and the second year in a row.
Denair came ready to play right out of the gate, forcing Le Grand to punt on their first possession of the game. The Coyote offense followed with an 11-play, 85-yard scoring drive capped by a four-yard touchdown from running back Jorge Yanez, which set the stage for what would be a run-dominated game.
“Our game play doesn’t change a ton; we’re a run-heavy team,” head coach Anthony Armas said. “There were a few wrinkles, but our kids adjusted pretty well. We play defense and run the ball. I wish it were a little fancier, but that’s been our game plan every time.”
Two possessions later, Le Grand answered back in the second quarter with an 11-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Aaron Martinez, Jr. to cornerback Ivan Perez. The Coyotes headed to the locker room at the half with the game tied 7-7, despite a near score on a fourth down attempt by Yanez that saw him complete a 26-yard run just short of the end zone with seconds left.
Yanez was one of two running backs who had touchdowns on the night — the second came from Dylan De Silva on Denair’s first possession of the second half. His eight-yard touchdown completed a nine-play drive and gave the Coyotes a 14-7 lead.
“It was pretty intense,” De Silva said. “You’d get one carry and they’d be all in your face yelling at you, grabbing at you. It was just a hard-fought game.”
With just one score separating the Coyotes from the ‘Dogs, it was imperative that Denair score once more in the fourth quarter — and they did just that. It seemed like their last possession in the game’s final minutes would end in a punt, giving their opponent a chance to tie the game, but a Le Grand player knocked into Silva as he kicked the ball and Denair got one more shot. After completing a fourth down conversion they drove from midfield to the endzone, where De Silva completed a three-yard touchdown run to put the Coyotes up 21-7 with 57 seconds left in the game.
De Silva finished the night with 248 rushing yards, which accounted for a huge chunk of Denair’s 345 total offensive yards. Le Grand was held by the Denair defense to 194 yards on the night.
“Dylan’s a pretty special back. He’s electric,” Armas said of De Silva.
While it seemed as if the win was in the Coyotes’ grasp, the Bulldogs didn’t go down without a fight. An impressive kick return put them on their own 44-yard line, allowing Martinez, Jr. to connect with wide receiver Carlos Martinez on a 56-yard touchdown pass. Now down 21-14, Le Grand attempted an onside kick with 38 seconds left that was ultimately recovered by Denair to end the game.
Next week, Denair will take on Mariposa High in the Section title game. Check cifsjs.org for the latest bracket updates to find out when and where the Coyotes will play.