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Huskies fall short in battle with Downey
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Hughson’s Malakai Sumter had two interceptions against Downey on Friday (ALEX MORALES/The Journal).

Hughson High’s fourth-quarter march to a potential go-ahead touchdown was stopped by a stellar defensive play from Downey cornerback Zeke Toledo with 42 seconds left, preserving the Knights’ 19-13 non-conference victory Friday at Husky Memorial Stadium.

Downey improves to 4-0 on the season, while the defending state 5-AA champions dip to 3-1.

“I think we’re going to be OK,” said Hughson head coach Shaun King, after his squad swapped punches with a Division 1 opponent for 48 minutes. “Earlier this week I was asked, ‘How are you going to do it when Downey has 11 on offense and 11 on defense?’ Well, Hughson has heart, and you saw it tonight. I couldn’t be prouder of my boys.”

The Huskies’ defense forced Downey to go three-and-out with 1:58 remaining in the contest, and took over on their own 46 following a 26-yard punt.

After picking up a first down on a 4-yard gain by running back Alex Villarreal and Robert McDaniel’s 9-yard completion to Larkin Meyer, the Huskies found themselves facing third-and-5 from Downey’s 36. McDaniel handed the ball to Villarreal, who busted free for a 31-yard gain to the 5. But a holding infraction at the 25 nullified the gain and brought the ball back to the 35. 

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Hughson receiver David Delgado hauls in a pass during the Huskies' 19-13 non-conference loss to Downey (Modesto) on Friday (ALEX MORALES/The Journal).

Villarreal was stopped for no gain on the replayed third down, and on fourth-and-4, Toledo broke on the ball, and with his outstretched right hand, batted the pass away from intended target Larkin Meyer.

“They like to run a lot of comeback routes, especially on clutch downs,” said Downey head coach Jeremy Plaa. “Early in the first half, Zeke gave one up, and the coaches were on him. And then I think he broke up four of those in the second half. Same type of play. We knew it was coming and he did a really good job.”

Downey opened the game by twice handing the ball to Marco Cruz, who went for 25 on the first play of the game and 49 on the second, giving the Knights a 6-0 advantage. 

All told, Downey outgained Hughson on offense 311 yards to 281 (McDaniel was sacked six times for minus-30 yards). But after Downey’s first two plays of the game, the Knights managed just 237 yards.

Downey entered the game averaging 461 yards of offense per contest.

After going up 6-0, Downey made it 12-0 on a 6-yard keeper by quarterback Joseph Ramirez. Fifty-eight seconds later, Antwain Harper’s pick-six from 24 yards out made it 19-0.

The rout appeared to be on, especially after Hughson turned the ball over and downs the very next possession.

However, the Huskies got the ball back when Malakai Sumter made a diving interception (the first of his two picks), leading to a five-play, 40-yard drive that was capped by McDaniel’s 1-yard sneak.

Hughson scored on its first possession of the second half to make it 19-13 when McDaniel found tight end Max Mankins in the end zone for a 23-yard hook-up with 5:15 to play in the third.

The final 17 minutes of action were played to a scoreless draw.