Denair was less than 30 seconds away from another impressive road victory Friday night. Then, the unthinkable happened in Santa Cruz.
Soquel scored on a 60-yard pass play with 23 seconds to play, capping a frantic finish that saw the Knights rally for three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to shock Denair 26-22.
It was a stunning turn of events for the Coyotes, who led by 16 points with 7 minutes left in the final period. For Denair, the defending Division VII state champion, it was the first loss since Sept. 21 last season against Ripon Christian, a span of 10 games.
Denair jumped ahead 15-6 at halftime thanks to a pair of touchdowns from Jorge Yanez (one running and one receiving) and another big night from Dylan De Silva, who scampered for 168 yards.
“We did pretty much what we wanted in the first half,” said Denair Coach Anthony Armas. “But it seemed like every big play we had, we got a penalty. Holding, blocking in the back, false starts. You name it, we did it. Penalties just killed us.”
Those mistakes and empty possessions proved costly, even after Angelo Retana scored to put the Coyotes (3-1) ahead 22-6 early in the fourth quarter. Instead of putting the game away early, the Coyotes let Soquel (3-0) hang around close enough to mount a comeback.
“They went to a hurry-up offense out of the spread and started throwing the ball,” Armas said. “They had a pretty good receiver and we just let him get loose.”
The disappointing outcome made for a quiet atmosphere on the three-hour bus ride back home.
“I think overall we’ll be fine,” Armas said Monday. “We’re coming down off the ledge. We’ll start talking about this week’s game at practice today. It was a long road trip, we had some penalties, some injuries, but we’ll be all right. It’s good for us to face some adversity. We were still in position to beat a school that’s four times bigger than us.
“I told our kids that our goal at the beginning of the season was not to beat Soquel. It was to win league. And that’s still within our reach.”
JV score: Soquel 34, Denair 0. The Coyotes are 1-2.This week: Denair opens its Southern League schedule against Le Grand (2-1), which is coming off a 36-22 victory over Linden. “They’re getting better. They’re very physical,” Armas said of the Bulldogs. … Armas expects the league championship to come down to his team, Ripon Christian and Orestimba. “It’s a tough league with some old rivalries. There are some teams like Le Grant that are vastly improved.” … With a state championship fresh in everyone’s mind, he doesn’t expect Denair to sneak up on anyone this fall. “Soquel beat us and they were going nuts. … We’re going to get everyone’s best effort all season.”