Denair Football Coach: Better Days Are Ahead

Submitted by Denair High School

Anthony Armas believes it’s a very good sign that he had a number of football players who couldn’t wait to hit the weight room Monday.

Even though their season ended Friday night.

As it was much of the fall, Denair was competitive in a 27-21 loss to Waterford. It was the Coyotes’ fifth consecutive loss and dropped them to 2-8 overall and 1-6 in the Southern League.

But Armas thinks the experience gained by a very young team – which will lose only three senior starters – will pay off in 2018.

And it was those sophomores and juniors who led the charge into the weight room Monday.

“We have almost everybody coming back,” Armas said. “We’ll be bigger, faster and stronger with a year under their belt. This was our year where we took our lumps, but we have a lot of returning juniors and seniors who were starters.”

Armas is not naïve about the nature of the competition. “Three of the teams from our league are in the playoffs,” he said. But he also realizes if his players can correctly process and correct the mistakes they made this season, and gain weight and size, they have a chance to surprise some people next year.

Denair, it should be noted, is only one year removed from a magical 2016 season in which the Coyotes often had a 14-man roster, yet still made the playoffs.

Quick turnarounds are possible, especially with motivated players and coaches.

“I think the younger guys are ready to get after it,” Armas said. “I had a couple of kids who said they want to win league next year. Our juniors this year won a lot when they were sophomores. Our backfield will be good.”

Friday’s game against Waterford (4-6, 3-4) followed a familiar pattern for Denair. The Coyotes were tied 7-7 at halftime, but a fumble inside the 20-yard line killed one promising drive and a couple of costly mistakes on defense allowed Waterford to score on two long pass plays. Continue reading “Denair Football Coach: Better Days Are Ahead” »

Denair Still Learning, Despite Fourth Loss in a Row

Submitted by Denair High School

There is nothing like the stark reality of a scoreboard on a Friday night to underscore the importance of the lessons taught at practice the previous four days.

“Mariposa 26, Denair 0” stared at the Coyotes as they walked off the field at halftime last week at Jack Lytton Stadium.

Coach Anthony Armas’ young squad has had a difficult year. One of his mantras week after week is that Denair must learn to play with more “physicality.” Often, the Coyotes have been unable to consistently stand up to the strength and dominance of the opposition.

It happened again Friday. Mariposa was the stronger team – and it showed in the first half. The Grizzlies’ bigger linemen mauled the Coyotes on both sides of the ball, controlling the line of scrimmage and the tempo of the game.

Denair had little margin for error, such as a fumble inside the 10-yard line in the first quarter when the Coyotes had a chance to score.

“They’re pretty physical,” Armas said of Mariposa. “I think some of our kids were a little surprised; I’m not sure why. It’s been like this almost every week. … It’s like it took us a half to wake up.”

To their credit, the Coyotes played much better in the second half.

Steffin Winston returned the opening kickoff for Denair’s first touchdown. Later, he ripped off a 42-yard TD run, followed by a 29-yard scoring dash by Hunter Musgrave in the fourth quarter.

That narrowed the gap to 33-23 Mariposa, but it was as close as Denair got. Mariposa returned an interception for a touchdown late in the game to seal its 40-23 Southern League victory.

The loss was the fourth in a row for Denair (2-7 overall, 1-5 in the SL). There is one game left and nothing approaching the excitement of last year’s improbable playoff run that Coyotes fans won’t soon forget.

And even as the five senior football players – plus the seniors in the band and on the cheerleading squad – were honored before their final home game Friday, Armas has tried to keep the season in perspective. Continue reading “Denair Still Learning, Despite Fourth Loss in a Row” »

Denair ‘Shoots Itself in The Foot’ in 28-14 Loss to Delhi

Submitted by Denair High School

Self-inflicted wounds sometimes hurt the worst. Just ask the Denair Coyotes football team.

Denair ripped off three long touchdown runs against rival Delhi on Friday night, only to have one of them wiped out by a penalty. The Coyotes also self-destructed with a couple of costly turnovers deep in their own territory and a slew of ill-timed penalties.

The result was a disappointing 28-14 Southern League loss to the Hawks.

After back-to-back losses against better and more physical teams (Ripon Christian and Orestimba), Denair Coach Anthony Armas anticipated a more even matchup against Delhi. What he didn’t expect was his team to lose its focus.

“We just shot ourselves in the foot at the wrong times,” he said. “We dropped some balls we should have caught. We threw some balls into the ground we should have completed. And the penalties just killed us.

“It was just mistakes all across the board.”

Armas recognizes he has a young team, with just five seniors among his 23 players. But he also knows that eight games into a 10-game season, it’s not simply a lack of experience holding his team back. Understanding how to control their emotions and play with poise is part of learning how to win.

“Our goal is to make this program better by doing it the right way,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure guys are dialed in and learning. That’s the big emphasis. To fix it.”

The Coyotes (2-6 overall, 1-4 in SL) started well against Delhi (3-5, 1-4).

With about 7 minutes left in the first quarter and back up on their own 3-yard line, Steffin Winston took advantage of the aggressive Hawks defense, which was crowding the line of scrimmage hoping for a safety. Instead, Winston took a handoff from Drew Pritchard on a trap play, hit the hole hard and found himself in the clear for a 97-yard sprint to the end zone.

Denair had little time to enjoy its lead.

Two plays after the kickoff, Delhi answered with a long run of its own to tie the score.

The Hawks added another TD on a 4-yard pass in the second quarter to take a 14-7 lead. Continue reading “Denair ‘Shoots Itself in The Foot’ in 28-14 Loss to Delhi” »

Unbeaten Orestimba Too Much for Gritty Coyotes

Submitted by Denair High School

Bigger, stronger, faster. It’s a theme consistently repeated for most of the past month as a young Denair High football team tries to compete against larger, more experienced rosters in the Southern League.

Friday night’s 58-20 home loss to unbeaten Orestimba was more of the same. The Coyotes showed flashes of potential and crisp execution, only to be undone by a blown assignment or other costly mistake.

“Our effort is not the problem,” said Coach Anthony Armas. “Our defense will shut someone down for two of three plays, then give up a big play. We’re just not consistent.”

Orestimba is the defending Southern League champion. Its senior-laden roster is full of players who have the confidence that comes with that success. Still, scrappy Denair went toe-to-toe with the Warriors in the first quarter Friday, which ended in a scoreless tie and included a blocked punt by the Coyotes’ Scott Badal.

But Orestimba (7-0 overall, 4-0 in league) quickly took control in the second period, scoring three touchdowns while controlling Denair’s offense.

“They really took the run away, which is what we want to do,” Armas said. “They were bringing a lot of heat. They had a big linebacker and some long guys on the edge who gave us some issues. They basically dared us to pass and that’s not our offense.”

That defensive pressure led to an Orestimba safety late in the quarter, giving the Warriors a 23-0 lead. But Orestimba muffed the ensuing Denair punt and Blake Davis recovered for the Coyotes (2-5, 1-3). A few plays later, quarterback Drew Pritchard escaped the rush and found Davis with a pretty 26-yard touchdown pass.

But Orestimba scored three more times in the third quarter and twice in the fourth to blow the game open and force a running clock.

The lone second-half highlights for Denair were two long kickoff returns for touchdowns by Hunter Musgrave – one for 88 yards and the other for 80 on the final play of the game

Junior varsity game: Orestimba shut out Denair 12-0. The Coyotes fell to 1-2 in league play and 2-3 overall.

This week: The Coyotes take to the road Friday to square off with rival Delhi (2-5, 0-4). “This is always a knockdown, drag-out fight,” Armas said. “They’ll stick a bunch of people in the box and dare us to throw it, just like everyone else. … They’re in about the same situation as us when it comes to numbers, but they’re our biggest rival so that doesn’t really mean much.”

Underdog Denair Faces Mighty Orestimba in Football

Submitted by Denair High School

Even in the best of conditions, it’s tough enough trying to prepare for the best football team in the Southern League. Wednesday was not the best of conditions for the Denair Coyotes, who host unbeaten Orestimba on Friday night.

Strong north winds pushed a thick layer of smoke from the Napa and Sonora wildfires into the valley and sent air-quality readings into the unhealthy range. Taking no precautions, school officials in Denair and across the region appropriately cancelled outdoor events. Including football practice.

It clearly was the right decision. Everyone’s health is more important than any one workout. But it added another hurdle into what already looms as one of Denair’s biggest challenges – how to keep up with mighty Orestimba (6-0 overall, 3-0 in the SL).

Typically, Wednesday is the day Denair practices at night at Jack Lytton Stadium. That didn’t happen.

“Usually, Wednesday is our best day of practice,” said Coach Anthony Armas. “We’re in the stadium, under the lights, in full pads. The guys like it.”

Denair (2-4, 1-2) is coming off a 36-14 loss last week at Ripon Christian, another game that Armas feels like the Coyotes were physically overmatched.

“We get matchups with certain teams that just aren’t good for us,” he said. “RC is very big. That was kind of rough. Le Grand is more like us (referring to Denair’s 63-20 victory two weeks ago).”

Orestimba will present more of the same size challenges. The Warriors also are skilled at many positions, plus they have nearly twice as many players on their roster as Denair. The Coyotes’ 23-man roster is light on seniors (5) and relies heavily on sophomores (7) pulled up from the JV team.

“They’re the best team in our league and have been the past couple of years,” Armas said. “We’re not going to do anything different. We’ll prepare like every other team. We’ll focus on us and how to get our offense better, and our defense and special teams.”

Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. at Jack Lytton Stadium.