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Denair tops Le Grand in league opener
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Denair's Dylan De Silva celebrates his second touchdown of the game with Jose Lopez Friday. The Coyotes won 20-12 (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

A strong offensive first half during Friday night’s game helped the Denair High School varsity football team start out Southern League play on a high note, edging out a 20-12 victory over Le Grand High.

“It’s good that we came out with a win, but troublesome because we’ve got some things to fix,” Denair head coach Anthony Armas said. “We haven’t been able to put together a good four quarters yet.”

The league-opening victory for the Coyotes came on the heels of their first loss of the season last week to Soquel High, but the team was eager to put the defeat behind them when they took the field against the Bulldogs this week. The offense put together a stellar first half with 218 total yards, compared to Le Grand’s 74.

“We really figured out what we did wrong last week and tuned it up, fixed the problems and everything started working,” Denair running back Dylan De Silva said. “The holes started opening up tonight — my O-line was killing people out there.”

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Dylan De Silva gains yards for the Coyotes (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

All 20 of Denair’s points came unanswered in the first half of the game. De Silva scored first for the Coyotes on a 22-yard run one minute into the second quarter, then followed it up five minutes later with another touchdown — this time, he caught a nine-yard pass from quarterback Elvis Silva.

De Silva finished with 178 rushing yards on 23 carries, 42 receiving yards on three receptions and two touchdowns on the night. He said that because of his size, he’s sometimes underestimated by his opponents.

“I’m only 165 pounds and there are other running backs out there who are 210,” De Silva said. “I just have to use my quickness. That’s my advantage.”

“Pound-for-pound, he’s a strong kid and a really quick kid with good vision who runs really hard,” Armas said. “We’ve had him for four years and it’s been fun just watching him develop as a person.”

The Coyotes scored once more — and for the last time — in the first half thanks to another Silva touchdown pass, who connected with Jacob Lewellen in the endzone on a 23-yard toss. Silva finished the night six for seven with 87 passing yards and two touchdowns.

Despite the offense’s impressive first half, key mistakes on both sides of the ball resulted in a different story during the game’s second half, where Denair amassed just 135 total yards and Le Grand was able to grab 173. Le Grand’s two touchdowns both came in the third quarter on possessions made possible by a pair of Denair fumbles — one as Denair received the ball during kickoff, and another fumbled completion in the red zone.

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Jacob Lewellen runs in a touchdown (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

Plenty of penalties from the Coyotes also kept them in less-than-optimal field position throughout the second half, including one instance where Denair faced a third-and-50 following several flags.

“It’s those mistakes that are killing us, not our offense or our defense or our special teams as a whole,” Armas said. “I thought we played really well, but turnovers put us in bad spots and then offensively, penalties killed us. We’re shooting ourselves in the foot — it’s not just one side of the ball.”

Despite the rough second half, the Coyotes performance was enough to earn them their first league win. Denair is now 3-1 overall and 1-0 in Southern League play. Next week the defending state champions will head to Ripon to play Ripon Christian, the defending Southern League champions who boast the same record.

“We have high hopes now that we can battle it out with some good teams, but there’s a lot of things we need to fix because next week we have a really good opponent in Ripon Christian,” De Silva said.