HHS Football
McDaniel stars with 7 TD passes against Ripon as Hughson locks up first-round playoff bye

Shaun King isn’t much into making public statements about the quality and toughness of his Hughson High football team. He prefers to let the Huskies’ performances speak for themselves. After Friday’s 55-26 beatdown of Ripon, the message was loud and clear to the rest of the teams in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI playoff bracket – Hughson is serious about defending the title it won last year.

Junior quarterback Robert McDaniel had the game of his life against Ripon, passing for 470 yards and a school-record seven touchdowns as the Huskies dominated their Trans-Valley League rival in their final regular-season game.

The 55 points against Ripon was the third time this year Hughson (7-3 overall, 3-2 TVL) has eclipsed the 50-point barrier and was one off its season high, which came in a 56-9 romp over Central Valley in the second week. Hughson has outscored its opponents 361-153 this season while averaging 36 points a game offensively. Its three losses have come by a total of 14 points against teams that all made the playoffs – Downey (Division II), Escalon (Division IV) and Hilmar (Division V).

Despite those impressive statistics, Hughson was seeded only fourth in the 12-team Division VI bracket behind No. 1 Sutter (8-2), No. 2 Sonora (8-1) and No. 3 Bradshaw Christian (8-2) of Sacramento. All four top seeds have a bye this week when the playoffs kick off.

King and Hughson Principal Loren Lighthall said they have given up trying to figure out why the Huskies didn’t earn a higher seed despite their rugged non-league schedule. In the end, there’s nothing they can do about it.

“We’re the defending Section champion, the defending NorCal champion, the defending State champion,” King said. “I’m sure we’re on everyone’s radar.”

Hughson will open the playoffs at home Nov. 10 against the winner of Friday night’s game between No. 5 Colfax (6-4) and No. 12 Amador (5-5). A victory in that game would likely earn the Huskies a meeting with top-ranked Sutter on the road on Nov. 17.

Interestingly, Hughson has been better away from home this season; two of its three losses have come at Husky Memorial Stadium.

“We’ve done well on the road the last couple of years,” King said. “For us, I think we’re just more focused on the road. We like going to hostile environments. We look forward to the challenge.”

Ripon may not be the toughest place Hughson will have to play this year, but the Indians typically put up a fight. They were overmatched, however, against McDaniel and the Hughson offense Friday night.

McDaniel, a junior who already is in his third season as a starter, was hot from the beginning. He had three TD passes in the first quarter -- 22 yards to David Delgado, 33 yards to Larkin Meyer and 5 yards to Cesar Ramos – as Hughson raced to a 21-0 lead.

By halftime, he had connected with Malakai Sumter on TD passes of 26 and 16 yards as the Huskies stretched their advantage to 35-7. McDaniel added two more scoring throws in the third period to his younger brother, Bryce, and again to Meyer before calling it a night. He finished the game 26 for 38 for 470 yards, with seven TDs and no interceptions in what his coach called his best game ever.

“He did really good with his reads,” King said. “He took what they were giving him. They were going man-to-man on defense, so we had some plays to beat that.”

With a bye this week, King said he will give his team Tuesday off from practice as their Halloween treat, plus Friday, when he and his coaches plan to drive more than three hours to Colfax to scout the teams they could face next week.

“I’m looking forward to going up there,” King said. “I hear their field is a pretty cool place to watch a game. It’s surrounded by redwoods. I like that kind of stuff.”

Hughson came out of the Ripon game mostly healthy. Only running back Alex Villarreal – who strained his hamstring two weeks ago against Hilmar – is likely to be limited in practice this week and next. King believes his club is poised to go on the same kind of postseason run it did last year, when the Huskies ended up celebrating Section, NorCal and State championships.

“I think we’re ready,” he said. “We had a good all-around game Friday night. This is what we’ve been working for; always being prepared for November football. Every week there’s something to play for. The playoffs are always exciting.”