Hughson crushes Colfax 54-13 to set up playoff showdown with No. 1 Sutter

Hughson and Sutter have never met in football, yet many players on both teams are familiar with each other. That’s because the two schools squared off last spring in the Sac-Joaquin Section baseball playoffs in a Husky vs. Husky matchup.

Sutter came out on top of that best-of-three series, winning 4-1 in the first game behind ace pitcher Jagger Beck, a hard-throwing 6-foot-6 right-hander who outdueled Hughson’s Robert McDaniel that afternoon. Two days later, Sutter ended Hughson’s season with a 5-3 road victory, scoring twice in the top of the seventh to win.

The losses didn’t sit well with Hughson, which will have a chance to avenge them this week when the schools face off again in the Section Division VI playoff semifinals.

“They beat us on the baseball field, now it’s our turn in football. Our baseball boys are fired up,” said Hughson Coach Shaun King, whose squad demolished Colfax 54-13 at home Friday night in its playoff opener.

The night before – with King and his coaching staff watching from the stands – Sutter squeaked by Liberty Ranch 14-7.

That sets up a grudge match this Friday at Sutter (9-2), the No. 1 seed in the bracket. Hughson (8-3) – which won the Section, NorCal and State titles last year – is seeded fourth this time around.

“Sutter is good all over field,” King said. “They’re the best defensive team we’ll see this year. Their linebackers swarm very well, they have a defensive back who has eight interceptions and their d-line is very athletic.”

Sutter’s defense is built around 6-2, 240-pound end Auckland Asiata, who already has committed to play football at Fresno State.

“We need to know where that guy is at all times,” King said.

Hughson’s offense should present the ultimate test for Sutter. Hughson has scored 50 points four times this season -- including 55 and 54 in its last two games -- and is averaging nearly 38 points a game this year.

Against Colfax, Hughson raced to a 40-0 lead and never looked back. McDaniel – one of the ace pitchers in baseball last spring – was as efficient as ever as the quarterback, hitting on 12 of 15 throws for 252 yards and connecting with Larkin Meyer and Malakai Sumter for first-half scores.

Hughson’s offensive line not only protected McDaniel, but also opened big holes for the running game, which churned out 257 yards and six TDs. Alex Villarreal ran for 72 yards and three scores and Jesus Artea, Cesar Ramos and David Burns also scored on the ground.

Hughson was so dominant it didn’t punt even once for the second game in a row.

“We played a complete game. We needed for that to happen. I was very pleased,” assessed King, who admitted he was nervous before the kickoff. “I think it was the best we played all year. Both sides of the lines, offense and defense, they came out ready to play. Robert was very efficient and the receivers made some very good catches. We were very well balanced and that was the goal.”

Defensively, Burns led the way with 13 tackles, Sumter intercepted a pass, and defensive ends Max Mankins and Ace Palacek each recorded a sack.

“Our d-line brought it,” King said. “Mankins was in their backfield all night. He could have had five sacks.”

It likely will take a similar effort to get past Sutter, whose offense is built around Beck at quarterback. The senior

already has committed to the University of Hawaii on a baseball scholarship.

“We need to stop big plays,” King said. “In all their games, they have big plays in passing game.”

Offensively, King expects Hughson to keep doing what has worked – balancing its punishing ground game with pinpoint throws by McDaniel.

“Robert’s on fire and our receivers are playing very well,” King said. “I think we have more athletes and I believe we’re faster. We’ll definitely test Sutter out and see how physical they are.”

King said he relishes the idea that Hughson is an underdog since it’s seeded fourth and Sutter is first.

“It’s fun going on the road,” he said. “I told the boys to just be comfortable, relaxed and locked in. I treat these guys like adults. It’s going to be a business trip. They know how big this game is.”

The winner of Friday’s matchup will move on to the Section championship, which will be played Nov. 25 or Nov. 26 at a neutral site. Last year, Hughson won the Section title in Stockton at St. Mary’s High.

The other semifinal this week features No. 3 Bradshaw Christian (9-2) at No. 2 Sonora (9-1). Sonora defeated Summerville 45-14 while Bradshaw dominated Union Mine 41-7 last week.