HHS Football
Hughson dominates Pitman 50-20, eager to host unbeaten Downey this week

Another week, another dominating victory over a larger school.

That’s the most simplistic way to view Hughson’s 50-20 demolition of Pitman on Friday, a game that wasn’t even as close as the final score might suggest.

The Huskies (3-0) led 35-0 at halftime after scoring 28 points in the second quarter – with two of the touchdowns remarkably coming on interception returns by the starting defensive ends, Dominic Aguiar and Max Mankins.

Both scores came when Pitman attempted screen passes, which didn’t fool Aguiar and Mankins. Aguiar’s pick-six came in the endzone with Pitman backed up against its own goal line. Mankins’ score went for 70 yards and was his second interception in as many weeks.

“Our ends are very tall. Both of them are about 6-3,” said Coach Shaun King. “Recognizing screen passes is something our DL line, Mark Foss, works on in practice every day.”

Even before the two scores, Hughson’s defense helped it overcome a sloppy start. The Huskies lost a fumble on the first play of the game – one of three they coughed up that was recovered by Pitman (1-2).  But the defense held the Pride on four downs, allowing the Huskies’ offense to retake the field and begin a long march that ended with Alex Villarreal’s 4-yard TD run. Villarreal finished with 105 yards on the ground.

In addition to Aguiar’s and Mankins’ great plays, Hughson stretched its halftime lead 35-0 after a 4-yard TD run by David Burns and a 5-yard scoring pass from Robert McDaniel to David Delgado in the second period.

McDaniel (9 for 16, 151 yards) threw another TD pass to Malakai Sumter after halftime, and Daniel Sotelo and David Burns added scoring runs later in the game. Burns also led the Huskies with 12 tackles on defense, while Carlos Guizar and Ivan Flores each had sacks.

“I was pleased with we overcame our mental errors and penalties,” King said. “I was proud of the effort in first half, but we have to have better ball handling.”

Hughson has outscored its three opponents – Ceres, Central and Pitman – 138-29 while dominating the larger schools. Each victory has been by at least 30 points, an important consideration later in the year when playoff seedings in the Sac-Joaquin Section are determined, King said.

This week’s opponent is another school with more students – Downey (3-0) of Modesto. It’s another opportunity for Hughson to make a statement that enrollment isn’t everything and remind everyone why it earned a Section Division VI and California Division 5-AA championships last season.

“Downey is a very good program. They’ve won their league two years in a row, they went undefeated last year and they’re undefeated now,” King said. “It will be a big challenge for us Friday night. This is by far the best team we’ve seen to date.”

The Knights run a high-tempo, no-huddle offense and can score quickly from anywhere on the field.

“They’re very fast and their quarterback can run. They like to get the ball out quickly,” King said. “It will be important for us to cover and tackle.”

One way to keep Downey’s explosive offense off the field is for Hughson to control the ball on offense. To do that, King said the Huskies need to run 70 to 75 offensive plays; the most they’ve had in any game this year is 65 against Central Valley in the second game. A strong performance by Hughson’s offensive line will be one of the keys against Downey.

“We need to get our pad level down and control the line,” King said. “If we can run the ball, that will open up our play-action passing game. Downey can match us speed-wise, so we have to be more physical than they are.”

Friday’s game at Husky Memorial Stadium will be the premier matchup in the region this week, pitting two undefeated teams with impressive reputations and high expectations this season. It also will be an important contest for King on a personal level. He and Downey’s principal – David Sanchez – are childhood buddies from Modesto. Their friendship is why the game was scheduled in the first place.

“We’ve been best friends since the second grade,” said King. “He lived right behind me.”

The two men went to Lakewood Elementary, La Loma Junior High and Johansen High School together. They played on the same sports teams all the way through high school. For King and Sanchez, there will be bragging rights that last a lifetime based on this week’s outcome. There might even be a friendly wager of some sort on the line, though King was coy when asked about it.

“We’ve been working on getting this game since last year,” was all he would say. “This is going to be very exciting game. I expect it will be the same intensity as a playoff game.”