The 2016 prep football season is halfway finished after last Friday's week five conclusion and of the six schools in the Journal's coverage area, only Pitman (5-0) and Delhi (4-0) varsity football teams remain perfect.
The Delhi Hawks are off to their best start in school history, earning their fourth straight victory of the year last Friday after toppling Mariposa in a 41-19 performance.
“It had been 17 years that we have not beaten Mariposa, but our kids executed the game plan great,” said Delhi offensive coordinator Erik Martinez. “The biggest difference is the kids buy into the system, our scout defense and offense push our starters and only made us better.”
For the Pitman Pride winning isn't out of the norm, however, three of the last five games have come down to the final seconds.
“I don't know why we start slow. It's a mystery to us, we did the same thing at Lincoln and the Napa game we were limited in scoring as well, but our defense picked it up,” said Pitman offensive coordinator Don Curtiss.
The Pride defense deserves much of the credit for Pitman's perfect 5-0 start. Pitman is off to its best start to a season since 2014, when they began 5-0. In 2011, they started the year off at 6-0.
In the last three years under head coach Tom Tyler, the Pride have won six or more games, including two seven-win seasons.
“It's awesome to see us have success, especially the kids,” said Curtiss. “We had a super tough preseason with tough teams, but we've played really well in the fourth quarter lately.”
After Friday's second half comeback win over Merced, the Pride have now shutout two of their first five opponents in the second half of the game. They have allowed just six points scored over six second half quarters against three different opponents.
“I think a lot to has to do with our conditioning and weight program,” said Curtiss. “Our kids work their tails off and they don't get tired and never gas out and they just keep going, that's a big part of it. We just need to go one first down at a time and go from there.”
Delhi has scored 41 or more points in four consecutive games, while holding their opponents to less than 21 a game, including a shutout.
The Hawks, who have never seen so much prosperity, have steadily blossomed since the conclusion of last season, mainly since the seniors decided to take the role more serious and its shown on the field, especially on offense for coach Martinez.
“The biggest key to our offense has been our offensive line,” said Martinez. “Every week we preach that the offense doesn't move without them. That is our game plan, working up to the next level and they bought into it week by week.”
The line, which consists of four linemen weighing over 200 pounds apiece for the Hawks, have been consistently dominating the opposition and are hoping to continue the trend.
Starting linemen Julian Moreno, Derek Perry, Felipe Solis, Eduardo Martinez and Ernesto Rocha have allowed runners to break free, gain yards and score points.
“Also the tight end is a big part with Raymond Figuero and Josh Diaz doing great at tight end. When we need a pass, they do a great job catching it and getting us out of a little trouble,” said Martinez.
Along with the Hawks tough line, Alecxis Miranda, Fabian Garcia and Jesse Flores have been the skill players who have flourished and are looking as devoted as any football team in the area, according to Martinez.
“Our biggest thing has been everyone in the back contributes and it makes it hard for others to key on one guy,” said Martinez. “We have weapons in the backfield this year and everyone is committed.”
Since 2004, Delhi has only had two winning seasons, in 2006 and 2011. The team also went 7-5 in 2005. The 2015 and 2013 Hawks started 3-0 but went on to amass just five wins for those years.
“They are hungry, last year starting 3-0 then taking a nose dive, it left a bad taste and these guys put in work above and beyond and it's a great feeling so far,” said Martinez. “They don't care about personal stats or what they are ranked, they are happy. But they have bigger goals and league champions is one and we're taking it one step at a time to achieve that goal.”
The Turlock Bulldogs picked up their third consecutive win after toppling Buhach Colony, 49-27, in their CCC opener, but since losing their first two pre-league games, the Bulldogs have been on a tear.
Turlock has outscored its last three opponents by a combined score of 111-40 and don't seem to be slowing down heading into their second CCC matchup with El Capitan.
Hilmar is off to another successful year after amassing a 4-1 record, finishing preseason on a high note and are heading into their bye week just before their rivalry bout with Escalon on Oct. 7.