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Denair earns first win in Riverbank rout; Hilmar falls to Merced in final seconds
Hilmar football
Hilmar wide receiver Derek Taylor runs a 52-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Seth Miguel down the field against Merced High on Friday (Photo by AnnaMarie Silveira).

The Denair High varsity football team earned their first win of the season Friday night with a skillful 46-6 victory over Riverbank High in a game that saw nearly every Coyote get their hands on the ball.

“It felt good. I always like those kinds of games,” Denair head coach Anthony Armas said. “We had a pretty good idea we could execute our game plan. The kids did what we asked them to do, they played hard and it worked out for us.”

The game saw four Denair running backs — David Smith, Cody Martinez, Harley Padilla and Hunter Kincaid — record touchdowns, and quarterback David Sutton had two rushing touchdowns of his own which both came in the first quarter. Despite the game being tied 6-6 early on, once it got rolling there was no stopping the Coyote offense. 

“We felt really confident after our first drive,” Armas said. “Pretty much everything was working for the most part. We spread the ball around and tried to keep it as diverse as we could, but not get too cute and do things they weren’t giving us.”

Everything was working for Denair on defense, too. Sutton and Padilla both had interceptions; Sutton’s came in the second quarter, while Padilla’s came in the third. Armas said his defense handled Riverbank’s “athletic” quarterback Matthew Jones quite well following the Bruins’ first touchdown in the first quarter.

“He threw some bombs and we gave up a couple of big plays,” Armas said. “We knew they were going to hit some big ones, but that we would be fine if we settled down and played defense which we did.”

This week, Denair will seek another win at 7 p.m. Friday in an away match against Mariposa. For Armas and the Coyotes, each week is about improving on the strides the young team has already made.

“The kids know and we know that there are still a lot of things to get better at. We’re young and that’s always gonna be on the table, but we are getting better week by week,” Armas said. “We’re constantly improving, so I think it's a testament to our kids, our program and the way we do things.”

In Merced, the Hilmar High Yellowjackets fell to the much-larger Merced High, 14-13, in a nail-biter of a game which saw both teams compete until the final seconds.

“It was a great high school football game. It was hard-fought and very well played between both teams,” Hilmar head coach Frank Marques said. 

Hilmar didn’t have any turnovers on the night, but the effort wasn’t enough to overcome what proved to be a fast come-from-behind victory by Merced with less than four minutes left.

At the start of the fourth quarter, the Yellowjackets were ahead 13-0 thanks to two field goals from kicker Andre Alves and a 52-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Seth Miguel to wide receiver Derek Taylor. Coming into the game, Marques knew it would be hard to score against Merced’s defense, which held both Central Catholic and Buhach Colony to minimal touchdowns in Weeks 1 and 2. 

“We knew their defense, and especially their defensive line, was really good and that if we were going to have a chance, it would be a low-scoring game,” Marques said. “Our defense played outstanding all game, too, but they were out on the field a lot.”

With 3:32 left in the game, Merced took advantage of the fatigued Hilmar defense and quarterback Seth Scheidt found wide receiver Jack Collins with a 75-yard touchdown pass. Hilmar tried to run down the clock on their next possession but failed and punted it back to Merced, who then drove 87 yards back down the field again to score on a 12-yard screen pass from Scheidt to wide receiver Raheem Choyce.

With just seconds left, Hilmar’s Alves attempted what Marques described as a “hail-Mary kick” — a 52-yard try that was blocked by Merced. 

The close loss comes a week after Hilmar defeated Buhach Colony in another thriller, which saw the Yellowjackets score to win in the final seconds. 

“Usually you have one of these games once a year, and here we have two of these games back to back,” Marques said. “We were the benefactors of one come from behind win and then we’re the victims of the next. The great thing is that we’re out here playing football.”

This week, Hilmar will take on Livingston High at 7 p.m. Friday at home.