Blink and they're gone: Downey, Stoddard blitz EU for 28 straight points

Ron Agostini

MANTECA – The Downey High Knights play with a palpable confidence, a mindset born of major-league varsity experience.

Nearly all their skill players are three-year varsity veterans, and  their chemistry is hard to miss. Those three-year standouts, anchored by quarterback Conner Stoddard, had a part in six of Downey’s eight touchdowns Friday night during a 56-6 rout at East Union.

“We feel pretty confident in what we’ve been able to do,” said Stoddard, who passed for 244 yards and five touchdowns. “Our idea this week was consistency”

As in consistently explosive.

Downey quarterback Conner Stoddard earned Player of the Game honors for a second straight week after throwing for 244 yards and five touchdowns in the Knights' blowout win at East Union on Friday, Aug. 26, 2022.

Downey (2-0), leading 8-6, removed all doubt with a 28-point blitz over the final seven minutes of the first half. The first two TDs bore the signs of Downey Football 101: A 49-yard pass perfectly led to Camden Rush, a recovery of an onside kick, followed quickly by a 42-yard Stoddard-to-Gabe-Hernandez-to-Rush playbook wrinkle. Add it up: 14 points in 21 seconds.

“We specialize on that,” Downey coach Jeremy Plaa said.

The run-away continued on Stoddard’s 26-yard catch-and-run to Gavin Garcia. When East Union (1-1) failed to run out the clock from its own 1, Downey tacked on a virtual knockout on Stoddard’s 24-yard lob in the end zone to sophomore Ethan Woodmansee with 1 second left before halftime.

The rest of the night was academic. Officials wound the clock for the final 12 minutes.

“Super mature group for sure,” Plaa praised. “Nothing has rattled them so far.”

That maturity was seen last week when the Knights rallied from a 10-point deficit to upset Lincoln of Stockton 42-35.  Hernandez caught 16 passes that night but, seven nights later, the highlight-reel plays were supplied by Rush, who raced past and jumped over the Lancers’ smaller secondary for six receptions, 191 yards and three touchdowns.

How’s this for Rush’s impact: The scores covered 49, 42 and 57 yards.

Downey appeared to slow-walk its offense on the early downs, then stuck. Five of its touchdowns came on third or fourth down.

“This is a returning group. Out timing is perfect right now,” Rush said. “It’s pretty helpful having experience.”

East Union, which lacks that been-there-done-that presence, tried to keep the ball away from the Downey offense but could not sustain marches. The Lancers, who reached the Downey 22-yard  line on their first possession, showed some second-quarter life on Dylan Lee’s 33-yard down-the-middle throw to Rafael Espinosa for their only touchdown.

All that triggered, however, was the Downey tidal wave.

“Plaa does a great job. He had his boys ready to play,” East Union second-year coach Mike Kuhnlenz said. “They played a great game tonight … (Stoddard) is a stud.”

The EU braintrust, clearly planning toward better days, knows the Lancers were outmatched this night. But they'll certainly address issues such as limited offense, pass coverage and sloppy special teams.

Lee, who rushed for 61 yards, completed only eight of 23 passes as the Lancers were outgained 383-197. The three-sport athlete, a record-breaking wide receiver last fall, has been asked to carry a heavy load.

"I've got to find a way to make us better," said Kuhnlenz, whose team travels to McNair next week, then welcomes Lincoln of Stockton for homecoming.

Rusty Jones and Richard Williams capped the scoring for Downey, which takes its unbeaten record to Merced next week.