Anthony Armas understands and appreciates his responsibility to coach this year’s Denair High football team the best he can, despite some harsh realities that are not going to change. Namely, the number of players and their experience.
The first one isn’t going to change and the second one will only come with time.
Friday night, when the Coyotes hosted Southern League powerhouse Ripon Christian, they had 13 varsity players in uniform. It takes 11 to play a game. Ripon Christian suited up 25. That numerical advantage certainly was one part of the reason the Knights coasted to a 49-0 victory in a game in which a running clock was instituted in the second quarter.
“It’s tough, obviously,” admitted Armas, who had four players sit out with various injuries. “We had games in previous years when we finished with 12 guys.”
What did he tell his healthy players in such a situation?
“That we’re going to play hard. That we still expect them to do their assignment,” he said before Monday’s practice. “Magically, we didn’t get anyone hurt (against RC). We’ll see after practice how many might be able to go this week.”
It has been a strange opening month for the Coyotes. They had their first preseason game on Aug. 19 called at halftime because of lightning strikes near Jack Lytton Stadium. That resulted in a 14-6 loss to Big Valley Christian of Modesto. Then they had two weeks off before posting their only victory, 20-0 on the road against Riverbank.
The next varsity game was supposed to be Sept. 8 against Bret Harte, but it turned into a JV-only contest because the Bullfrogs pulled the plug on their varsity program this fall. That meant Denair’s three seniors had to watch while the 43 freshmen, sophomores and juniors played together for that week only. The result was a resounding 40-0 win for the Coyotes and, possibly, a hint of better days to come for the football program.
“Everybody at those three grade levels got some experience,” said Armas, who because of the combined rosters actually had reserve players standing next to him on the sideline for a change. “It felt weird, but it was pretty nice.”
The rosters were separated again against Ripon Christian – not great news for the varsity, but not altogether a bad thing for the JVs, who battled hard before falling 14-7. It was the Coyotes’ first loss of the season.
“They’re looking good. It’s definitely a glimmer of hope and a lot of people are talking about it,” said Armas of the JV team, who paused before acknowledging reality. “Unfortunately, that doesn’t help the varsity on Friday night.”
This week, Denair (0-1, 1-3) plays at Gustine (1-0, 1-3). The Reds posted an impressive 36-6 victory on the road at Mariposa last week in their SL opener.