Submitted by Denair High School:
Earning a first-round bye as the top seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII playoffs benefitted Denair on a couple of levels.
First, the Coyotes limped to the finish line with injuries to a number of key players, most of whom are expected to play Friday at home against Le Grand in round two. Fullback Dylan De Silva, who rolled his ankle three weeks ago, will be in backfield again. His presence is a huge part of Denair’s powerful running back.
As much as De Silva and his teammates needed a physical break, Coach Anthony Armas said they also needed to rest mentally. They’ve been practicing since early August and playing games starting a few weeks later. Part of the reward for earning the No. 1 seed meant not having to play last Friday – or even practice since last Tuesday.
The time off was evident at Monday morning, when Denair (8-2) worked out on the Veteran’s Day holiday.
“We had a long break, which I think some of our guys really needed,” Armas said. “If we’re healthy, we’re ready. We just need to hold on to the ball, execute and play defense. If we can do those things, we’ll be all right.”
De Silva has been getting treatment on his high ankle sprain for a couple of weeks now. Armas said he’s been able to get back into the weight room, but he’s purposely not run 100% on it yet.
“Once you roll an ankle, it just takes some time to heal,” Armas said. “I think he’ll be able to deal with it this week.”
Le Grand, seeded fourth in the Division VII bracket, easily handled No. 5 Big Valley Christian of Modesto 41-21 in the first round.
The Bulldogs (6-5) are no strangers to Denair. They both play in the Southern League and met in the league opener on Sept. 20, which the Coyotes won by a score of 20-12.
Armas doesn’t expect Le Grand to do much differently this time around.
“We have high respect for Le Grand,” he said. “They’re a physical team. They have some speed on the outside. They do what they do well.”
In the first game, Denair jumped out to a 20-0 halftime lead thanks to two touchdowns from De Silva – who finished with 178 yards rushing – and a TD pass from Elvis Silva to Jacob Lewellen.
But the Coyotes were their own worst enemies in the second half, fumbling twice to set up short TD drives for Le Grand and consistently putting themselves in the hole with costly penalties.
“I just remember we had a lot of penalties,” Armas said. “We just need to fix what didn’t work, keep what did and maybe throw in a few wrinkles.”
Extra Points – The other side of the Division VII bracket features No. 2 seed Mariposa (6-4) hosting No. 6 Vacaville Christian (7-4), which defeated Woodland Christian 30-14 in the first round. … Three of the four remaining teams – Denair, Mariposa and Le Grand – are Southern League schools. … The Section championship game will be played at a neutral site on Nov. 22. … This is the third time in Armas’ five seasons as head coach that the Coyotes have made the postseason. They were knocked out in the first round three seasons ago, but rolled to a Division VII state championship last fall. … Denair is 5-0 at Jack Lytton Stadium this year and has won nine in a row dating to last season. The Coyotes’ last home loss was 35-7 to Ripon Christian on Sept. 21, 2018. … De Silva will play this week, but right tackle Derek Starkey is out for the rest of the season with a concussion. … There will be a special playoff tailgate barbecue and party Friday at lunchtime for Denair High students. … Some of Denair’s players and assistant coaches attended Le Grand’s win over Big Valley Christian. Not Armas, who prefers to scout opponents by watching tape. Instead, he went to the Turlock-Del Oro game. “It was closest game and sounded interesting,” he said. “I go there just as a fan and hang out with some friends of mine. It was just to enjoy watching a high school football game.”