Submitted by Denair High School:
Dylan De Silva’s ankle is just fine. Denair’s senior fullback – who had been limited for three weeks while nursing the injury – reminded everyone Friday night that he’s the main man in the Coyotes’ ground-pounding offense. De Silva ran for 248 yards and two touchdowns as Denair outlasted Southern League rival Le Grand 21-14 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII semifinals at Jack Lytton Stadium.
The victory sets up a rematch for the Section championship against another Southern League opponent, Mariposa. The Grizzlies earned their spot in the title game with a dominating 52-27 win over Vacaville Christian in the other semifinal.
Denair (9-2) narrowly defeated Mariposa 14-13 at home on Oct. 25, stopping a two-point conversion attempt late in the game that would have given the Grizzlies the lead and then watching as Mariposa missed a short field goal with 40 seconds to play.
“They’re a good team,” said Denair Coach Anthony Armas of Mariposa (7-4). “They’ve got a good quarterback. They like to spread out their offense and they’re physical on defense.”
It was in the first game against Mariposa that De Silva was hurt. He rolled his ankle early in the third quarter and went to the sidelines. He didn’t play the next week in the regular-season finale against Waterford, then had more chance to rest as top-seeded Denair earned a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
Friday, it was clear from the start that De Silva was fully recovered.
“He was making all the cuts he usually makes,” Armas said. “He was running well. He didn’t have any long runs, but he had seven or eight plays were he got pretty good chunks of yardage.”
Jorge Yanez was the other Denair running back who took advantage of the gaps being created by the Coyotes’ line, scoring Denair’s first touchdown on a 4-yard run in the opening period.
“Our offensive line was really getting after people,” Armas said.
Though Denair moved the ball effectively in the first half, Yanez’s TD was its only points. Denair’s defense held Le Grand in check until late in the second quarter when the Bulldogs completed a short pass for a score that tied the game 7-7 at the half.
Armas credited Le Grand for making a few defensive changes and “flying all over the place,” but said halftime gave the Coyotes a chance to make some adjustments and fine-tune their offensive assignments.
That focus immediately paid off in the second half as the Coyotes took the kickoff and marched downfield in just nine plays. De Silva capped off the drive with an 8-yard TD run that gave Denair the lead for good.
Neither team scored again until De Silva’s second touchdown, a 3-yard run with 50 seconds to play in the game that put the Coyotes ahead 21-7.
Le Grand made it interesting by completing a long pass for a quick TD after receiving the kickoff, but Denair covered up the Bulldogs’ onside kick attempt to ice the victory.
“It was a little more drama at the end than we wanted,” Armas said.
Extra Points – Section officials typically hold championship games at neutral site, but Friday’s contest still may feel like a home game for Denair since it will be played at Turlock High School. Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. … It is the second straight year and the fourth time in school history Denair has qualified for the Section football championship. Last year, the Coyotes beat Golden Sierra 43-21 for the title on their way to the state Division VII championship. … A victory Friday likely would put Denair in the conversation to play for a Northern California championship next week. Those pairings will be determined after the various section finals are held this week.