Hughson Football
Hughson overcomes slow start, penalties to crush Central Valley 56-9

Despite the lopsided nature of the final score, Hughson’s 56-9 victory over Central Valley of Ceres on Friday night was far from perfect. In Coach Shaun King’s mind, there are plenty of areas that the Huskies need to clean up.

They had two early touchdowns called back by penalties and committed other pre-snap infractions that put the offense in a hole. They allowed a kickoff to be returned for a touchdown.

“I thought we played OK. … We left points out there,” King told the Modesto Bee after the game. “(We had) a lot of penalties that we need to clean up. You can’t have those penalties when you’re playing in the TVL.”

Still, after sweeping the larger Ceres high schools in its first two non-league games, Hughson (2-0) has shown that it’s serious about not only winning its first Trans-Valley League title in 25 years but in defending its Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI and California Division 5-AA championships.

The Huskies have outscored their opponents 88-9 and have yet to allow a defensive touchdown (Central Valley’s only score Friday came on a kickoff return). Friday night, Hughson punted just once, blocked a punt and intercepted two passes. The offense – once it started clicking – was unstoppable.

Quarterback Robert McDaniel threw four touchdown passes – three of them in the second quarter to Larkin Meyer, Malakai Sumter and David Delgado. Running back Alex Villarreal – who ended up with 175 yards and three more scores on the ground – helped Hughson build a 28-3 halftime lead with his first TD.

At intermission, King’s message was simple. “All gas, no brakes. Just keep going,” he told his team.

The Huskies scored again early in the third period to go up 35-3 before an injury on the ensuing kickoff caused the players and fans on both sides to hold their breath. Hughson senior Damien Alonzo Ruiz – playing on the kick coverage team – was leveled by a block and lay motionless as the play continued (which turned out to be Central Valley’s only TD of the game).

Fortunately, after being tended to, Ruiz was able to get to his feet as he was helped off the field to loud applause. He later was diagnosed with a concussion and will not play this week against Pitman, King said.

The sobering moment seemed only to focus the Huskies more.

On their next possession, they took just three plays to get in the end zone on another Villarreal run. Then Jesus Artea intercepted a Central Valley pass, setting up Villarreal for his third TD, a 50-yard dash down the right sideline. Hughson then forced a fumble on the kickoff and recovered, leading to a running clock for the final 10 minutes of the game, when both coaches emptied their benches.

King said Ruiz’s injury – though scary at the time – brought his teammates even closer.

“We became a family,” he said.

This week, Hughson again will face a school with a much larger enrollment. For the first time ever, the Huskies will make the short drive to Turlock to play Pitman (1-1), which is coming off a 49-24 loss to Cosumnes Oaks (1-1) of Elk Grove. In its first game, Pitman defeated Central Valley 29-7.

“This is going to be our biggest test of the year,” predicted King, who believes his club should be considered an underdog against the Pride despite its two impressive wins. “Pitman is a good club. They’re coached well. They’re good at all aspects of the game.”

Playing larger schools is an intentional choice for Hughson. After Pitman, the Huskies will host another team from the larger Central California Athletic League – Downey (2-0) of Modesto. Hughson’s final non-league game is at home Sept. 15 against Elite (1-1) of Vallejo.

“It’s all about getting ready for the TVL,” King said. “Everybody in the TVL would compete with the same schedule we have. There’s no other league like it.”