The Denair Coyotes have had to deal with a small roster for the entirety of the 2022 season. On Friday night, circumstances did not get any better as they suited up only 14 players before taking the field against the powerhouse Ripon Christian Knights.
It was a struggle from the very beginning for the Coyotes. After receiving the opening kickoff, Denair was forced to punt only two minutes into the game. On the punt attempt, RC’s Derek VanElderen came up with a block, sending the football to the back of the endzone and giving the Knights an early 2-0 lead due to a safety. After the safety kickoff, RC quarterback Trey Fasani kept the momentum rolling by launching a 30-yard touchdown to tight end Jace Beidleman, making it a 9-0 game.
After another strong defensive stand by the Knights, RC running back Grant Sonke kept the good times rolling by breaking free for 9-yard touchdown rush. The Knights showed no mercy after another Denair three-and-out possession as Fasani found wideout Griffin De Abreu for another 30-yard touchdown strike, giving the Knights a 22-0 lead.
The Coyotes were forced to punt again on the ensuing possession, but a muffed made matters even worse as the Knights were gifted stellar field position, something they took advantage of immediately as Brady Grondz rushed for a 10-yard touchdown on the second play of the possession.
Now facing a 28-0 deficit, Denair running back and team captain Isaac Martinez put his team on his back, breaking lose from the mighty Knights defense for a 51-yard run to set his team up at the RC 9-yard line. After a negative play, quarterback Landen Borges found running back Emanuel Renteria for a 12-yard touchdown pass to put the Coyotes on the board and make it a 28-7 deficit.
Denair head coach Anthony Armas praised Martinez’s run and offensive execution to keep the game from getting too far out of reach.
“Isaac is our captain. He never gives up and it’s just an attitude you hope all players can learn from and be like. He’s a great player and his refusal to back down even with that score is all you can ask you as a coach,” he said.
Unfortunately for the Coyotes, they could only keep the Knights within striking distance for long. On the next drive, VanElderen found a whole to rush in a touchdown from 30-yards out and make it a 35-7 game at halftime.
It was more of the same story in the second half as the Knights struck for two more touchdown via Fasani and Ethan Mcgovern rushes and held Denair scoreless for the remainder of the game. The final score was 49-7.
Although his team fell by 42 points, Armas was glad to see his team continue to play hard through the final whistle.
“Our guys don’t quit. This is something we’ve been used to, playing with a short roster. We may not be getting the results we want, but hustling for all four quarters is something we pride ourselves in doing,” Armas said.
The matchup against Ripon Christian was the last before Denair opens Southern League play next week against the Gustine Reds and their high-powered running attack. Next week’s game is also Denair High School’s homecoming, something that Armas believes will have his players fired up.
“It’s homecoming which is always a big deal,” he said. “We just have to keep working on the small things and we hope those adjustments can lead to better results moving forward.”