Denair Football Team Rolls to Section Division VII Title; Will Host State Championship Game Saturday

Submitted by Denair High School

The charmed season of the 2018 Denair High football team becomes more magical each week.

The Coyotes barely had time to process Saturday’s 43-21 victory over Golden Sierra for the school’s first-ever Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII football championship before they found out Sunday that they were selected to play for a state title this week.

Better yet? Denair gets to play before its adoring home crowd on the familiar turf at Jack Lytton Stadium. The opponent – Los Angeles City champion Santee – faces a six-hour bus ride. Kickoff will be at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Denair Coach Anthony Armas was getting ready to go to school Sunday to meet with Athletic Director Darrin Allen when he learned the Coyotes had earned a spot in the title game. Who told him? His mother, of all people.

“The CIF posted it on Max Preps. She saw it there and texted me,” Armas said.

Families all around Denair – still basking in the glow of Saturday’s Section championship — had more reason to celebrate.

Armas immediately sent a group text to his players: “Game Saturday, December 1st in Denair at 6pm against Santee from L.A. STATE TITLE GAME!”

Saturday’s game at Liberty Ranch High School in Galt against Golden Sierra had been postponed by a week because of all the smoke associated with the deadly Camp Fire in Butte County.

Despite the layoff, Denair didn’t look rusty. The Coyotes (11-1) jumped to a 13-0 lead early, then used two interception returns for touchdowns in the fourth quarter to seal its victory over the Grizzlies (8-5).

The first big play came with Denair leading 30-21 with about two minutes to play when senior Hunter Musgrave stepped in front of a Golden Sierra pass with the Grizzlies threatening to score. Musgrave weaved his way 91 yards for the touchdown that essentially sealed the game.

“I just stayed in my zone and he made a bad decision,” Musgrave told the Modesto Bee about Golden Sierra’s quarterback.

Amazingly, in a season of milestones for the Coyotes, it was the first time they scored on defense.

About 90 seconds later, Winston matched Musgrave’s feat. He intercepted another pass and raced 70 yards to provide the icing on the Section and Northern California title cake.

“The first one was great. The second one was even better,” admitted Armas. “I didn’t even realize that we hadn’t scored all year on defense. The ref told me after our kids told him.”

Winston also starred on offense, scoring three rushing touchdowns and finishing with 99 yards on 18 carries.

“My offensive line was making beautiful holes for me and I was just hitting them as hard as I could,” he told the Bee.

Musgrave also scored on offense on a trick play in the second half, when everything the Coyotes did seemed to work just as planned.

It all led to a postgame celebration that included the presentation of the Section trophy and blue championship banner, plus patches for each player to put on his letterman jacket. When the team bus finally rolled into Denair about 6 p.m., it was met by Fire Department trucks and escorted to an impromptu parade down Main Street.

Despite all the excitement, Armas expects to have a normal week of practice this week. The players will work out Monday, Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and Wednesday night under the lights, just as they do every week. They’ll get Friday off before playing their final game Saturday.

“At this point, we’re playing with house money,” Armas said. “I don’t think this week will be any different. … I don’t think it’s really hit me yet. Right now, it’s just, ‘Beat Santee.’ ”

Extra points: This is Denair’s first Section championship since the boys basketball team in 2002. … Armas has only seen a little tape of Santee. What he saw impressed him. “They’re big. They have a lot of speed. They have a really good running back. They look like a double tight end offense. They run the pistol and a little counter-option. I expect them to be physical.” … Santee (13-1) defeated Los Angeles Fremont 52-20 Saturday for its Section title. … The Falcons are led by running back Joseph Todd, who has rushed for 2,788 yards and 40 TDs this season. He averages 214 yards a game.

Denair Football Team Back at Practice After Air Quality Delay; Section Division VII Championship Game Saturday

Submitted by Denair High School.

It has been an unusual week for students, teachers, and residents all across Northern California. The horrific Camp Fire in Butte County – where the death toll is nearing 80 and tragically rising every day – has darkened skies from Chico to Fresno.

The air quality has been so poor and unhealthy that classes in many districts have been canceled. So have extracurricular activities, especially those held outdoors – including the Denair High football team’s date with Golden Sierra for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII championship.

The game originally was scheduled for last Saturday, but delayed for obvious health reasons. With a storm expected to sweep across California starting Wednesday, the game is back on track. It will kick off at 1 p.m. Saturday at Liberty Ranch High School in Galt.

Denair (10-1) returned to indoor practice only Tuesday for the first time in a week. Coach Anthony Armas is pragmatic as well as respectful about the unexpected break.

“It’s a little nerve-wracking, but it’s the situation we have and we have to deal with it,” he said. “It’s inconvenient for us, but everybody up north is dealing with much worse.”

Armas assumes that Golden Sierra (8-4) hasn’t missed as much practice because the air quality has been better where it’s located in the foothills east of Sacramento.

Denair’s plan, if it is allowed, is to practice in the afternoon on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Armas is only mildly concerned whether his players will be a little rusty after a week off and the extra time for nerves to develop.

“Our kids are pretty focused group,” he said. “They’re rolling with it like we are. They’ve actually done well with it. That’s a good sign.”

The Denair Unified School District continues to monitor the air quality index and follow the guidance from the Stanislaus County Office of Education regarding all activities, including football, said Principal Kara Backman.

Extra points: Denair is the top seed in Division VII; Golden Sierra is No. 3. … This is Denair’s third attempt to win a Section football championship. In addition to the 2006 game, the Coyotes lost in the 1998 Division IV finals, 33-14 to Central Catholic of Modesto. … Golden Sierra is from Garden Valley, which is east of Highway 49 about halfway between Auburn and Placerville in El Dorado County.

How to get there: Liberty Ranch High School is at 12945 Marengo Road in Galt. From Highway 99, take the Twin Cities Road exit. Turn right and go east to Marengo Road. Turn right and the school will be on the left. The stadium is on the east side of the school, with parking just to the north.

Top-Ranked Denair to Play for Section Division VII Title

Submitted by Denair High School

Brimming with confidence and riding a six-game winning streak, this year’s Denair football is poised to do something no other team in Coyote history has accomplished – win a Sac-Joaquin Section championship.

Denair, the No. 1 seed in Division VII, earned its place in Saturday’s title game with a 39-18 victory Friday night over Southern League rival Gustine.

The Coyotes (10-1) next will play third-seeded Golden Sierra (8-4), who knocked off No. 2 Big Valley Christian 24-14 in Modesto.

The championship game kicks off at 1 p.m. Saturday at Liberty Ranch High School in Galt.

“It’s exciting. It’s special that we have a chance to play for Section title,” Denair Coach Anthony Armas said Monday during practice.

Armas was an assistant on the last Denair team to make the Section Division VI finals, in 2006. The Coyotes lost to Lindhurst 30-7 that season. The team they beat in the semifinals? Golden Sierra.

The Grizzlies returned the favor in 2007 playoffs, knocking off Denair in the first round, so the two schools have some history – even if this year’s players were in first and second grade then.

Like Denair, Golden Sierra likes to keep the ball on the ground. Both teams average nearly 40 points and more than 300 yards rushing a game.

Armas watched film of two Golden Sierra games over the weekend and said there were no surprises.

“They’re going to run double wing – two tight ends, two wingbacks and offensive linemen who are foot-to-foot. Their feet literally are touching,” he said. “They make walls and try to run behind them. … It’s different but similar to what we do. Run the ball, control the clock and play defense.”

Friday was the first home playoff game for Denair in 11 seasons – since that 2007 loss to Golden Sierra – and the partisan, purple-clad crowd at Jack Lytton Stadium was ready to roar.

The Coyotes didn’t make them wait for long, scoring on a 69-yard run by Hunter Musgrave, one of four featured running backs in Denair’s lethal Wing-T offense. He finished the game with 134 yards and two touchdowns, and played a role in the Coyotes’ second TD even though he didn’t score it.

Musgrave fumbled on the 1-yard line in the second quarter, but Denair lineman Zachary Cherry recovered the ball in the end zone for the TD. That gave the Coyotes a 14-0 lead. After Gustine kicked a field goal, Steffin Winston scored on a 10-yard run just before halftime to stretch the margin to 21-3.

Neither team scored in the third quarter, but Denair put the game away in the final period with three touchdowns – a 10-yard run by Musgrave, a 49-yard run by Drew Pritchard and a 16-yard pass from Elvis Silva to Scott Badal.

“It’s so crazy,” Musgrave told the Turlock Journal. “We always knew this team was special ever since our JV year and honestly, even last year when we didn’t do so well, we knew we’d have a future so it means a lot because we’ve put in so much work.”

Denair converted four times on fourth down, two of which went for scores.

“I think our kids are confident and they don’t panic,” Armas told the Journal. “It makes it easier as coaches to make calls and do things, because we know they’re not going to freak out. They’re going to do what they’re supposed to do.”

Extra points: This is Denair’s third attempt to win a Section football championship. In addition to the 2006 game, the Coyotes lost in the 1998 Division IV finals, 33-14 to Central Catholic of Modesto. … Armas is mildly concerned about Saturday’s 1 p.m. starting time. “We’re not used to playing then,” he said. “The good thing is that it’s the same thing for the other team. If it does affect us, I hope it does them, too.” … Golden Sierra is from Garden Valley, which is east of Highway 49 about halfway between Auburn and Placerville in El Dorado County. … The Grizzlies finished third in the six-team Sierra Delta League behind Rio Vista and Highlands. They have won three in a row. … Junior running back Keaton Wright has 1,128 yards and has scored 16 touchdowns. Junior Robert Reed has 777 yards and 10 TDs. … Liberty Ranch High School is at 12945 Marengo Road in Galt. From Highway 99, take the Twin Cities Road exit. Turn right and go east to Marengo Road. Turn right and the school will be on the left. The stadium is on the east side of the school, with parking just to the north.

New Program Intended to Make Access to College
 Even Easier for All Denair Students

Submitted By Denair Unified School District

High school and middle school students in the Denair Unified School District have a new ally in their efforts to prepare for, apply at and help pay for college.

It’s called the California College Guidance Initiative. It is the state’s official college and career planning platform, which is free to all California educators, students and families.

Thursday, Denair trustees unanimously decided to make the district one of the first in Stanislaus County to enroll in the program.

CCGI is a nonprofit — funded in part by the state of California — that partners with school districts across the state to advance local college and career readiness goals. CCGI wants all high school seniors in California to graduate with clear postsecondary goals and a plan for how to achieve them.

Its website is packed full of useful tools that allows students, their parents and school advisers to access all kinds of college-related information and requirements, upload transcripts and college-prep test scores, search for universities and application forms, take career profile surveys, and learn more about financial aid.

Each student – beginning as early as sixth grade — creates a profile that includes his or her coursework, academic accomplishments and even extracurricular activities. Students who aspire to attend a University of California, California State University or even a community college can see exactly what it will take to potentially be accepted.

If a family moves or a student changes schools, the profile follows him or her anywhere in California.

“One of the things I like as a parent and a principal is there is a parent portal,” said Denair High Principal Kara Backman. “It’s the same information for students, parents, teachers and administrators.”

Denair Superintendent Terry Metzger said another important CCGI feature is its ability to position students to enroll in the right classes as college freshmen. Many students end up in remedial courses they don’t need or have to drop a class they’re not prepared for.

“The transition will be better for them and they’ll be better placed in classes,” she said. “Colleges don’t want to do assessments and students don’t want to end up with a wasted first semester. This helps us better align all those components.”

Metzger said district officials will meet with CCGI representatives in December in hopes of rolling out the program for all high school and middle school students after the first of the year.

Earlier in the meeting, Metzger quickly ran through a range of recent test results and student performance measurements. She also recapped some of the highlights of her first few months on the job and talked about some of her goals for the remainder of the school year.

The relevant test results included:

  • 194 Denair students are classified as English learners. More than half – 53% — are achieving at the top two levels for oral (listening and speaking) and written (reading and writing) abilities, said Metzger, adding that more analysis is needed to determine why “our reading scores are lower than our writing scores for the same students.”
  • Roughly half of Denair’s fifth-, seventh- and ninth-graders met five out of the six healthy fitness zones requirements (aerobic capacity, body composition, abdominal strength, trunk extension strength, upper body strength and flexibility). Tests are taken in the spring.
  • The California smarter balanced assessment test, known as CAASPP, measures English and math proficiency. The results indicate Denair students need improvement in both areas, Metzger said. She intends to work with principals and teachers at all the campuses to ensure all students routinely exposed in class to the types of problems they see on the test. “The test is not our purpose; it’s just a measure,” Metzger said.

The new superintendent, who came to Denair in July from a large district in Santa Rosa, said she has spent much of her first few months building relationships among staff members and the community. Her strategy, she said, is to listen, learn, share and plan.

“My motto is, ‘Everyone is on a journey you know nothing about. Be kind,’ ” she told trustees and the audience.

Among Metzger’s goals are to improve student achievement, build a budget for 2019-20 that includes salary restoration for staff, find the right balance between centralized district control and autonomous campus decision-making, and even more thoroughly integrate technology into every classroom.

“I’m feeling really good about the work we’ve accomplished so far,” she said.

In other action Thursday, trustees:

  • Approved a contract for $96,276 with BZ Construction of Ceres to install two portable classrooms on the Denair Elementary Charter Academy campus on Nov. 28. The cost will be paid with extra state money received and saved for one-time projects.
  • Added six minimum days to the Denair Middle School calendar. They are all Fridays – Dec. 7, Jan. 11, Feb. 1, March 1, April 5 and May 10. Students will be let out at 12:38 p.m. Teachers will use the extra time in the afternoon to analyze student data and plan instruction that will benefit all students through the further development of a responsive multi-tiered system of support.
  • Approved plans for the Class of 2019 to take their Senior Trip to Disneyland on May 10.

No. 1 Denair Will Host Southern League Rival Gustine in First Home Football Playoff Game Since 2007

Submitted by Denair High School

It will be a Southern League rematch in the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII football playoffs.

Top-seeded Denair (9-1) vs. No. 4 Gustine (6-5), with a spot in the championship game at stake. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. Friday at Jack Lytton Stadium.

The teams know each other well and played Sept. 28 in Gustine. Denair, trailing 14-7 at halftime, ambushed the Reds with six touchdowns in the second half to win 49-14 and ruin Gustine’s homecoming.

That victory launched the Coyotes on a five-game winning streak that earned them solo second place in league behind unbeaten Ripon Christian, the coveted No. 1 seed in the playoffs and a first-round bye last week.

Gustine earned its rematch with Denair edging Millennium of Tracy 28-27 in Gustine last Friday.

Denair coach Anthony Armas said he didn’t have a preference of who his team would play, but isn’t surprised that it’s Gustine. The Coyotes also defeated Millennium earlier this season.

“They’re both physical and have some talented kids,” Armas said. “Gustine has some big kids up front. They have a pretty talented running back. And their quarterback is pretty good.”

Denair overpowered Gustine in the first game. Hunter Musgrave had his best game of the season, ripping off 206 yards on 18 carries and scoring three touchdowns. Steffin Winston ran 14 times for 84 yards and a TD, and Dylan DeSilva added 61 yards and three more touchdowns. Denair also forced three turnovers.

“I don’t think they’re 100% convinced that that win was legit,” Armas said of Gustine. “I think they think it was a fluke. They’re going to try to take it to us.”

The coach said his message this week will be the same as it’s been since practice began in August. “Just keep getting better at what we do.”

What the Coyotes thrive on is a Wing T offense that keeps opponents guessing about which running back will carry the ball and which direction that will be. Other than Ripon Christian, no one has stopped Denair this year. The Coyotes are averaging 44 points a game in their nine victories.

What’s equally important is Denair’s defense. The Coyotes are holding opponents to 18 points a game, including one shutout and three games allowing just one touchdown.

“We’ve done pretty well offensively, but I think our defense gets overlooked,” Armas said. “It was in the second half of that Gustine game that we became ball hawks. We’ve been good about creating turnovers ever since.”

He expects Friday’s game to be closer than the first meeting, if only because Gustine will be looking for payback and to spoil Denair’s season.

“It’s easier to make adjustments when you lose like that,” Armas said.

Extra points: This will be the first home playoff game for Denair since 2007, according to athletic director Darrin Allen. … The Coyotes last were in the playoffs two seasons ago, when they were beaten on the road by Amador in the first round. … The other Division VII semifinal on Friday night has No. 3 seed Golden Sierra (7-4) of Grass Valley at No. 2 Big Valley Christian (9-1) of Modesto. … The championship game will be played Saturday, Nov. 17 at 1 p.m. at a site still to be determined.