Downey High quarterback Conner Stoddard has thrown 29 touchdowns against just three interceptions for the Knights, who are gunning for their first undefeated season since 1985. (Diego Hernandez)

'Downey Day' at Modesto QB Club; who is the new No. 1 in the large-school poll?

Ron Agostini

MODESTO – The unbeaten Downey High Knights like the idea of making some school history.

They are favored on their senior night to beat Pitman and clinch their second straight outright Central California Athletic League title Friday night at Chuck Hughes Stadium. If so, the 71st Downey team will be the first since the 1985 Knights to finish off a 10-0 regular season.

By the way, Kevin McGill – one of the stars of that “Blue Thunder” team of ’85 – will be an honorary captain against Pitman.

Members of the Downey High football team, the honored guests at Monday's Modesto Quarterback Club, are, front: Gabe Hernandez (12) and Ethan Rowland (31). Back from left: Deontae Huley (76), Richard Williams (5), Conner Stoddard (18) and Camden Rush (10).

“I think our 7-on-7 league and weight work during summer separated us from everyone else,” said Conner Stoddard, one the area’s top quarterbacks. “My timing and connections with our receivers got much better. We just trust our teammates.”

Stoddard and fellow seniors Gabe Hernandez, Ethan Rowland, Deontae Huley, Richard Williams and Camden Rush were special guests of the Modesto Quarterback Club during its Monday lunch meeting. Also, there were principal David Sanchez, athletic director Steve Garrett, head coach Jeremy Plaa, several assistant coaches and many Downey parents and fans.

“This is a very mature group,” Plaa praised. “We’re a confident team.”

Downey built its confidence from beating Lincoln and Turlock, both on field goals as time expired. The Knights also accented their resume with wins over Merced and Tracy. Last week they handed Gregori its first CCAL loss 51-10 as Stoddard threw three touchdown passes to raise his season total to 29 TDs against only three interceptions. Kimoni Ragland also rushed for 159 yards and three scores.

Friday night’s game will end the regular season, which leads to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs. Downey never has been seeded higher than sixth in Division II but its portfolio lends itself to probably a top four.

NOTES – Central Catholic (5-4, 4-0) clinched no worse than a tie for the Valley Oak League title after its stunning 56-49 win over previously unbeaten Manteca. The Buffaloes stacked their defense and basically dared junior quarterback Tyler Paul Wentworth to beat them, and he obliged by throwing for 217 yards and three third-quarter touchdowns. Tyler Jacklich rushed for four touchdowns and receiver Trace Hernandez caught five passes for 101 yards and a TD plus a clutch reception along the CC sideline late in the game. They offset a spectacular performance by Manteca senior Blake Nichelson, who rushed for 413 yards and seven touchdowns. Nichelson, who has committed to Florida State, stakes a claim as one of the best players the southern part of the section ever has seen. He has scored 29 touchdowns. The Raiders are heavily favored on senior night to beat Sierra. …

Big Valley Christian’s four-season reign atop the Central California Athletic Alliance League ended with its 37-6 loss to first-place Stone Ridge Christian. Coach Brian Berkefeld said the Lions (3-5, 1-1) settled down after they fell behind 21-0 during the first quarter. BVC will finish the regular season Friday with its senior night game against Delta Charter. … Modesto Christian (6-4, 2-4) closed its regular season with a 49-8 loss to Trans-Valley League-leading Hilmar. The Crusaders were competitive during the first half and trailed only 14-8 until a costly interception resulted in major momentum the Yellowjackets. “We believe our season will continue,” MC coach Jerry Grimshaw said in reference to a postseason berth. …

Michael Marsden and Lucas Medrano, Gregori’s top running backs, both were injured during Gregori’s loss to Downey. Marsden sprained his ankle in a non-contact injury on the first snap. The injuries are being evaluated, but their chances to play are uncertain as the Jaguars (4-5, 5-1) wrap up the regular season at Turlock. Grant Veneman threw a touchdown pass for Gregori against Downey. …

The Modesto Junior College defense shined during its 24-7 Valley Conference victory over Contra Costa last Saturday afternoon at San Pablo. Defensive back Elijah Washington intercepted a pass, broke up another pass in the end zone and delivered a major hit as the Pirates limited Contra Costa to minus 37 yards on the ground. Keith Orona tossed two touchdown passes and Aiden Taylor rushed for 102 yards and a TD for MJC (3-4, 2-0), which welcomes Reedley Saturday at 5 p.m. …

Modesto High receiver Heston Blom is closing in on 1,000 yards in receptions as the Panthers (2-7, 0-4) finish against Enochs on Friday night at Johansen. Modesto was beaten 56-22 by Pitman last week. Enochs fell to Turlock 56-16. … Johansen and Beyer, both 0-9, wrap up their respective seasons Friday night at Gregori. Johansen, trailing Grace Davis 23-18 last week, had the ball at midfield with five minutes left but fumbled. Beyer was beaten by Pacheco 47-20. … Grace Davis (4-5, 3-3) overcame 14 penalties for 139 yards during its flag-filled game against Johansen. Coach Tim Garcia believes his team has an outside chance at the postseason going into the Spartans’ regular-season finale against a good Ceres team.

Large School Rankings

1. Central Catholic 5-4 (d. Manteca 56-49, home vs. Sierra)

2. Downey 9-0 (d. Gregori 51-10, home vs. Pitman)

3. Manteca 7-1 (lost to Central Catholic 56-49, home vs. Oakdale)

4. Patterson 9-1 (d. Buhach Colony 28-18, bye)

5. Tracy 7-2 (d. Lodi 23-7, at West)

6. Turlock 5-4 (d. Enochs 56-16, home vs. Gregori)

7. Kimball 5-4 (d. Oakdale 39-34, home vs. East Union)

8. Oakdale 6-3 (lost to Kimball 39-34, at Manteca)

9. Golden Valley 8-1 (d. El Capitan 34-0, home vs. Merced)

10. Merced 5-4 (d. Central Valley 56-14, at Golden Valley)

Small School Rankings

1. Sonora 7-2 (lost to Antelope 53-51, at Summerville)

2. Summerville 9-0 (d. Argonaut 34-8, home vs. Sonora)

3. Hilmar 6-3 (d. Modesto Christian 49-8, home vs. Riverbank)

4. Hughson 7-2 (bye, home vs. Ripon)

5. Escalon 6-3 (d. Ripon 43-0, at Livingston)

6. Orestimba 8-1 (d. Denair 44-14, at Gustine)

7. Ripon Christian 7-2 (d. Gustine 35-7, at Delhi)

8. Ripon 4-5 (lost to Escalon 43-0, at Hughson)

9. Modesto Christian 6-4 (lost to Hilmar 49-8, bye)

10. Le Grand 7-2 (d. Delhi 37-7, home vs. Mariposa County)