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Huskies pound Pride in first-ever meeting
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Hughson’s Dominic Aguiar intercepts a screen pass in the endzone for a touchdown against Pitman Friday evening. The Huskies won 50-20 (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

For the first time ever, the Hughson High Huskies took the short trip to Joe Debely Stadium in Turlock to take on the Pride of Pitman High on Friday night. The Huskies led the entirety of the matchup before ultimately taking the victory by a 50-20 final.

The plan for the Huskies was simple early on – run the football.

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Malakai Sumter gains yards for the Huskies (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

In the first half, the Huskies rushed for 156 yards, led by senior Alexander Villareal. Through the first two quarters Villareal had 85 yards and a touchdown. The other bulk yardage on the ground came courtesy of senior fullback David Burns, who had 71 yards and a touchdown of his own.

“That was our game plan in the first half. Our coaches tell us to pound the ball. Don’t let up. Put your head down, truck them and get all the extra yardage,” Villareal explained.

Hughson head coach Shaun King shared that top receiver Larkin Meyer being unavailable with an injury also contributed to the running attack.

“That’s who we are. That’s us,” King said. “With #5 missing, we knew it would hurt our passing game and we knew we had to pound the rock.”

While the plan was to control the clock and pound the ball into the endzone with their own offense, the Huskies received help from Pitman’s. In the first quarter, Pride starting quarterback Andrew Azevedo threw two pick-sixes. The first came in the senior’s own endzone when a slant pass was plucked from the air by junior lineman Dominic Aguiar. The second was a 70-yard return by junior defensive end Max Mankins to make it a 28-0 game heading into the second quarter.

Azevedo was replaced by junior Kingston Deleon on the Pride’s next drive.

As for Hughson’s quarterback situation, it was business as usual for junior Robert McDaniel, the Turlock Journal’s reigning Athlete of the Week. The second-year starter passed for 149 yards with a pair of touchdowns, one to senior David Delgado from three yards out and the other to junior Malakai Sumter, who connected from 24 yards out.

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Grant Day runs in a touchdown for the Pride Friday evening against Hughson (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

The Pride were finally able to put some points on the board in the second half with junior Grant Day punching the ball in from 10 yards out to make it a 42-6 game midway through the third quarter.

On the ensuing Huskies drive, the Hughson turnovers began. Sumter fumbled on Hughson’s 32-yard line, resulting in a 26-yard touchdown pass from Deleon to sophomore Lawson Aviles four plays later. Villareal then fumbled on their next drive, which turned into another Deleon touchdown pass, this time 17-yard connection to Aviles.

Ultimately, the mountain was too steep to climb.

“That’s a good team and they have a lot of talent,” said Pitman head coach Eric Reza. “We’re just going to keep going and keep fighting and get back to it on Monday. The biggest takeaway is that these kids won’t quit. They have heart and they have some fight in them.”

Despite winning by 30 points, Hughson coach King expressed disappointed in the number of turnovers, penalties and poorly executed plays his team had in the second half.

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Lawson Aviles runs the ball in for a touchdown against Hughson Friday evening (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

“It was a tale of two halves, and it’s pretty disappointing, really,” King said. “It’s on us as a coaching staff. We were pretty loose at halftime too. It’s on us and it won’t happen again.”

The Pride will travel to Merced next Friday to take on the 2-1 Cougars of Golden Valley. Meanwhile, the Huskies will be at home against the undefeated Knights of Downey (Modesto). It’s a game that King is already thinking about.

“I’ve never lost to Downey as a player, and I’ve never lost to Downey as a coach, and it for sure isn’t happening Friday,” he told his team in the postgame huddle. “The mistakes today can’t happen moving forward.”

“We are the defending state champs, but we need to realize and think about how everybody [has] put a target on our backs,” Villareal added. “We just need to play how we play and not play down to anyone’s level. It’s only getting tougher, and we need to be strong mentally for all four quarters.”