HUGHSON – For months, Hughson High football coach Shaun King had this date circled and this opponent measured.
Downey week would always mean more to King, who graduated from the Johansen High football program and was thusly raised to loathe the Knights.
It didn’t matter that Downey, a two-time Central California Athletic League champion, is one of the most successful large-school programs in the region. Or that Hughson, a small-school state champion, would be giving up inches in reach in this clash of big and small.
King wanted the dance – a chance to tango with Goliath – and the shorthanded Knights were happy to take the lead.
Led by converted quarterback Joseph Ramirez, Downey scored the first 19 points and then held off King and the Huskies late for a 19-13 victory on Friday. Ramirez scored on a 4-yard run, highlighting the first-half blitz as the Knights improved to 4-0 despite playing their third game without starting quarterback Carson Lamb.
Marcus Cruz started the scoring with a 49-yard burst with 9:04 left in the first quarter and Antwain Harper (10 tackles) closed Downey’s account with a 24-yard interception return later in the quarter. All of the Knights’ scoring took place in the first half, and it was just enough.
“We want to schedule teams that will get us ready for our league (and) Turlock High. We know Hughson is going to be physical,” Downey coach Jeremy Plaa said. “We tried to convince our kids all week that they’d be a tough team.
“We had a chance to put the game away early and couldn’t do it. So that’s going to be our focus this week. We can’t score three touchdowns in a row and then look we can score three more, and then blow assignments.”
Hughson made it a one-score game on a 23-yard pass from Robert McDaniel to Max Mankins with 5:15 left in the third quarter. McDaniel was 17 of 26 for 200 yards with a rushing touchdown and that ill-fated interception.
The Huskies had their nine-game winning streak snapped, a streak that spanned two seasons.
Ramirez struggled to get Downey’s Air Raid offense off the tarmac but found traction with his feet. He rushed 10 times for 100 yards, complimenting Cruz’s stellar night. Cruz led all players with 117 rushing yards on 16 carries.