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Second-half surge propels Cougars past Coyotes
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Cody Martinez finds an opening to gain yards for Denair during the game against Weston Ranch on Friday (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

The Denair High Coyotes are a young football team, but head coach Anthony Armas believes they’re getting better each week during this pandemic-shortened season. 

Following their 26-6 loss to Weston Ranch High on Friday night, there were some improvements from the week prior, he said, when they lost by 43 points to Orestimba. 

“We made a lot of mistakes [tonight], but I think we limited some of the mistakes as opposed to last week…but we’ve got a pretty long ways to go,” Armas said. “We’ve got a young team…it’s going to be a work in progress.” 

After graduating 15 seniors following last season, which saw the Coyotes advance to a second-straight section title game, the Denair varsity team is comprised of mostly sophomores this year as there weren’t enough players to field a junior varsity team. Still, it was a close game through the first half on Friday night and the Coyotes were evenly-matched against their opponents from Stockton.  

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The Coyote defense stops Weston Ranch from gaining yards during the game Friday. Denair lost 26-6 (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

The Coyotes were able to score on their second drive of the game in the first quarter via a seven-yard rushing touchdown from running back Cody Martinez, which ended up being their only score of the game. On the ensuing kick, Weston Ranch’s Aaron Jaimes-Rodriguez returned the ball for a 91-yard touchdown to tie the score 6-6, after both teams missed the point after attempt.  

The Coyotes defense held the Cougars through halftime, with two turnovers including a forced fumble and an interception by linebacker Conner Prock.  

“There are some bright spots for sure,” Armas said of his defense. “We’ll have [a lot] of them for another year and that’s definitely going to help us.”

In the second half, Weston Ranch scored 20 unanswered points in the third quarter. The Coyotes had several big runs in the second half which were called back due to penalties, but it didn’t stop them from attacking the rush — the age-old Denair game plan, Armas said.  

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Denair's Hunter Kincaid punts the ball during Friday evening’s game against Weston Ranch. The Coyotes lost 26-6 (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

“That’s what we do — we’re going to pound the rock and run the ball a lot,” Armas said. “It’s going to hurt us a little bit, but at the same time it’s what we do…obviously we’d like to win the game, but we are getting better and kids are improving.” 

The Coyotes were led by a three-pronged rushing attack: Martinez finished the game with 76 rushing yards and one touchdown on 21 carries, Harley Padilla had 52 yards on 21 carries on the night and David Smith rushed for 71 yards on just nine carries. Padilla also had an interception in the fourth quarter.  

Next week, Denair will take on Riverbank High — another team Armas believes will be evenly-matched with his squad. The game starts at 6 p.m. Friday and will be played in Riverbank. The Coyotes are now 0-2 on the season. 

“It’s cliché, but it’s one game at a time,” Armas said.