DINUBA – Similar to its season opener, the Dinuba High football team is facing an uphill climb from a bruising debut as it negotiates the early stages of the five-game West Yosemite League campaign.
The Emperors (3-3, 0-1) were buried by a 25-point second quarter explosion from the visiting Hanford High Bullpups, who used their team speed and opportunistic execution to break open a tight 8-0 contest and cruise to a 47-6 rout at Dinuba High stadium on Sept. 29.
The lopsided loss echoes Dinuba’s rough season start on Aug. 18, a near-identical 41-7 drubbing at Sanger High that featured a running clock in the final quarter. The Emperors were able to rebound well from that big loss, winning three of the next four including road wins at Golden West and Washington Union.
But any hopes of continuing the winning in the WYL opener were resoundingly dashed in a disastrous second quarter against Hanford (5-1, 1-0). An 8-0 deficit after 12 minutes ballooned out of control after junior two-way standout Kourdey Glass jumped a route and returned Jayce Prendez’s pass 26 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-0 after a missed two-point conversion try.
Glass then recovered a Dinuba fumble at the Hanford 46, and after Hanford managed to convert a first down on 3rd and 25 – with help of a penalty – quarterback Daniel Gomez found JC Turner for a 26-yard touchdown to make it 20-0. Elijah Felder’s interception stopped a Dinuba threat at the Hanford 25, and on the next play following a false start penalty Gomez hit Zephaniah Sesay in stride for an 80-yard touchdown sprint to make it 26-0 with 3:26 left in the half.
A three-and-out and Dinuba punt gave Hanford possession near midfield, and Glass finished off the sudden outburst with a 51-yard dash to paydirt. That made it 33-0 at halftime, and the game was essentially over.
“We told ourselves (beforehand) that we’ve got to take care of the football to compete with this team, and we cannot have a pick six when you play a good team that puts a lot of points on the board,” Emperors coach CJ Lester said of the rash of turnovers. “I thought we played tough that first half, but (Hanford is) a game team, they’re a Division One team this year and they’ve got that type of athleticism.”
Hanford coach Cannon Sanchez said his team overcame some sloppy play but he was satisfied with the end result.
“A win is a win and we’re happy to get it,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of depth, we only have 34 guys so we had to get all those guys in. That was a really good team that we beat in Dinuba, they’re always tough in this league. If you don’t beat Dinuba, you don’t win league.”
The Bullpups finished off the Emperors with a 14-point third quarter, getting another interception from Felder to start a drive that ended with Gomez’s 20-yard touchdown run. Gomez then connected on a 20-yard TD pass to Jordan Black, growing the lead to 47-0 and bringing on a running clock in the final 12 minutes.
Dinuba managed to break up the shutout late in the fourth, converting on fourth down when Prendez found Alexander Solian in the end zone from 22 yards out with an accurate throw. A two-point conversion pass attempt failed, and the running clock expired moments later.
Dinuba had a spirited defensive effort for much of the first quarter, getting an interception from inside linebacker Isaac Macias and keeping Hanford in check for much of the quarter. But after the visitors pinned the Emperors on their own 1 yard line following a punt, the ensuing punt gave the Bullpups great field position at the Dinuba 46.
On the first play, running back Albert Richardsob sliced through a hole on the left side and outraced Dinuba defenders to the end zone on a 46-yard scoring dash. Glass then converted a run around right end for two points; the only scoring of the quarter.
Dinuba’s next two games are on the road, starting with a Thursday, Oct. 5 contest at 7:30 p.m. against Tulare Western at Bob Mathias Stadium. That’s followed by an Oct. 13 matchup at Lemoore High, before the Emperors return home to finish WYL play with home games against Tulare Union (Oct. 20) and Mission Oak (Oct. 27).
“This is stuff that we’ve got to clean up and get better. But our season is over and we’re going to continue to fight and turn it around,” Lester said.