Jeremy Plaa's 'Air Raid' offense was in full force in a come-from-behind season-opening victory at Lincoln of Stockton. Quarterback Connor Stoddard threw for 369 yards and three touchdowns. (Diego Hernandez)

Modesto QB Club, plus rankings:  With upset, Downey sends warning to CCAL

Ron Agostini

The Downey High Knights showed in their season opener that they’re intent on defending their Central California Athletic League title.

Downey didn’t blink during assorted challenges to its confidence—giving up a touchdown on the opening kickoff and later trailing by 10 points – and overtook Lincoln of Stockton 42-35 in one of last week’s most exciting games.

“We had some kids just play lights out against a Lincoln team that was super-athletic,” Downey coach Jeremy Plaa said at Monday’s season-opening Modesto Quarterback Club lunch meeting. “Exactly the type of game that you want. You win that first round but you still have a lot of things to work on.”

One thing Downey almost always seems to have is a lethal pass-catch combo. Quarterback Conner Stoddard and receiver Gabe Hernandez, both seniors, connected 16 times for 158 yards. Overall, Stoddard clicked on 30 of 39 passes for 369 yards and touchdowns to Camden Rush, K.J. Ragland and sophomore Ethan Woodmansee.

The Downey victory was a mild surprise. Lincoln’s fourth-year quarterback Kenyon Nelson is one of the best signal-callers the Knights will see this season, and he displayed his talent often. Still, the Knights eventually forged a lead and protected it.

Cayden Edmiston made a far-down-the-field interception at the four-minute mark, and Woodmansee recovered a muffed punt minutes later as Downey closed out the win.

Even after Week 1, the upcoming CCAL race took shape. Turlock, a proud program that didn’t lose a conference game from 2016 until last fall, announced its arrival on the season with a 14-7 upset victory over Rocklin.

Still, Downey covered that bet with its own impressive win.

“We are very excited about that win against that opponent,” said Plaa, whose Knights will continue their three-game “road trip” Friday night at 1-0 East Union.

NOTES – Grace Davis’ 28-25 loss to Weston Ranch featured a thrilling finish. The Spartans intercepted a pass, marched the length of the field and reached the WR 1-yard line with 14 seconds to go. But a fly-sweep play was stopped, and the Spartans ran out of time. Coach Tim Garcia said his kicker was sidelined due to cramps, which complicated matters. “We would have kicked, no doubt about it,” Garcia said. …

The temperature was 101 degrees at kickoff for the much-anticipated game between Merced and Central Catholic, during which the Bears dedicated their new on-campus stadium. The Raiders scored on four straight possessions after halftime for a 43-20 win that came at a price. Assistant coach Myron Larson said defensive backs Brooklyn Cheek and Jaelen Nichols, sidelined early in the Merced game due to injuries, will not play Friday night when the Raiders travel to St. Francis of Mountain View. The good news was junior quarterback Tyler Wentworth, who raised his game after halftime and completed seven of 13 passes for 194 yards and three touchdowns, two on long strikes to Trace Hernandez. The third was a 17-yarder to Tiago Armstrong. Tyler Jacklich rushed for 160 yards. …

Enochs, the club’s featured team Monday, brought five of its players to join coach Tracey Traub. The Eagles were in good spirits after they won the Sylvan Bowl 35-6 over Beyer. “For most of the guys, it was the first time they were on a varsity field,” said Traub, whose team graduated 30 seniors after last season. Quarterback Adam Amarr passed for two touchdowns and rushed for a third while teammate Aiden Muhammad rushed for 112 yards. …

Modesto punctuated its 41-24 win over Johansen by scoring 28 straight points after trailing 8-0. Coach Dylan Miller cited the Panthers’ fourth-year quarterback Eli McCabe, who passed for 280 yards and three touchdowns and also rushed for a TD. Heston Blom, McCabe’s familiar receiver, made nine receptions for 90 yards and two scores. Garrett Bidwell returned a punt 35 yards for a touchdown to sustain Modesto’s momentum. “We can build on this,” Miller said. …Johansen coach Rod Smith lamented the Vikings’ four turnovers, though they still trailed by only 10 points during the third quarter. Johansen rushed for more than 300 yards, 215 by junior Chad Conley. …

Modesto Christian senior quarterback Raymond Corral Jr. put up pinball machine numbers during the Crusaders’ 47-20 win over Foresthill. Corral hit on 14 of 18 passes for 265 yards and five touchdowns and also rushed for 150 yards. Coach Jerry Grimshaw thinks his team is improved over the 2021 squad that went 1-7. … Big Valley Christian will begin its season Friday night at 0-1 Waterford. “Probably the tightest crew we’ve had,” said coach Brian Berkefeld, whose Lions won the Central California Athletic Alliance League title in 2021. …

Modesto Junior College’s preseason will accelerate Wednesday when the Pirates welcome City College of San Francisco – which won its eighth straight state title last year by going 13-0 – for a scrimmage Wednesday at 4 p.m. ... The QB club, begun in 1930, was held for the first time at Denny’s Restaurant (near Doctors Medical Center).  That is its new home after many years at the former Coaches Corner. ...

Large school rankings

1. Central Catholic, 1-0 (at St. Francis of Mountain View). 2. Manteca, 1-0 (at Patterson). 3. Downey, 1-0 (at East Union). 4. Turlock, 1-0 (at Clovis West). T-5. Oakdale, 1-0 (home vs. Aptos). T-5. Patterson (home vs. Manteca).

Small school rankings

1. Escalon, 1-0 (home vs. Buchanan).  2. Hilmar, 0-1 (home vs. Los Banos). 3. Sonora, 0-1 (at Ripon). 4. Hughson, 1-0 (at Argonaut). 5. Orestimba, 1-0 (at Hughson).