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Huskies start season strong with second win
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Alexander Villarreal looks for a hole during Friday’s game against Central Valley. Villarreal carried the ball 17 times for 175 yards and scores of 5, 10 and 50 yards (TRACY DOIGE/The Journal).

Hughson High completed a sweep of the Ceres high schools Friday, beating Central Valley 56-9 one week after beating Ceres High 32-0.

Playing their first home game of the season, the defending CIF 5-AA champions overcame a sluggish start — they were down 3-0 after one quarter — before ripping off 35 unanswered points.

“I think we’re still nervous about the expectations,” said head coach Shaun King. “The expectations are high and we’re feeling it. It’s something we’ve got to fix.”

While the Huskies played tentatively during the opening 12 minutes, they were anything but after that.

Junior quarterback Robert McDaniel completed 12 of 18 passes for 213 yards and four touchdown passes — a 31-yarder and a 39-yarder to Larkin Meyer, a 60-yard bomb to Malakai Sumter and a 2-yard toss to Max Mankins. Meanwhile, running back Alex Villarreal carried the ball 17 times for 175 yards and scores of 5, 10 and 50 yards.

“I think we were really excited to get back in front of this Hughson crowd,” said McDaniel, who started as a sophomore on the Huskies’ state championship team. “ We were just a little overwhelmed.”

Anthony Ramirez ended the drought for the Hawks, returning a kickoff 87 yards to make 35-9 with two minutes left in the third quarter.

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Hughson’s Larkin Meyer pushes past a Central Valley defender on Friday in the Huskies’ 56-9 home-opening win (TRACY DOIGE/The Journal).

“As I was running to the sideline, I thought, ‘Oh, yeah, I’ve got this in the bag,’” said Ramirez. “But then I saw two players coming and I thought, ‘I’ve got to make a move somehow,’ so I cut inside and found a hole.”

The play livened up the Central Valley sideline, which had been pretty much silent since McDaniel’s 60-yard TD strike to Sumter.

But any momentum gained by the Hawks was snatched right back when Ben Lighthall returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards for a score. It was nullified by an illegal block around the 20, which brought the ball back to the 30, but it was enough to knock the wind out of the Hawks. Villarreal took care of business from there, running the ball three times and capping the drive with a 10-yard burst with about a minute left to play in the third quarter.

“Obviously, coming back as state champs there’s a big target on our back,” said Villarreal. “And it’s our first home game since Dec. 10, so there’s definitely some nerves going on. I know before the game, I was nervous.”

Hughson will see action again on Friday when they travel to Joe Debely Stadium to take on Pitman, which beat Central Valley last week 29-7.