To say that the start of the Shadow Hills football team’s season was a disappointment would be an understatement.
A last-second location change and a last-second 59-yard field goal for a loss both put a damper on what promised to be an impressive year for the Knights.
But that part of the season is over, and the team’s bye week at the end of non-league play added a nice clean break.
Friday, the Knights came out and proved it, dominating visiting Desert Mirage in all three facets of the game, while taking an early 21-0 lead on their way to a 49-14 home victory to begin their last season in the De Anza League.
“We had a couple weeks to kinda separate it, but now it’s league play, and it’s a new season,” Shadow Hills head coach Ron Shipley said. “Our focus the last couple weeks was coming together as a team. We’ve been lacking that the last few weeks. We want to play … with excitement and play as a family.”
The Rams, who entered as losers of two straight were looking for their own kind of magic, but coach Jeff Tebelak’s aggressive play calling in the game’s outset proved part of the problem.
With the help of a failed onside kick and the Rams’ gutsy fourth down call deep in their own territory, the Knights took advantage of short fields twice in their first two possessions and wasted no time, with a 37-yard pass from JD Lang to Derwin Johnson and a 15-yard by Jared Gipson with less than five minutes off the clock.
The next Desert Mirage possession: A punt off the back of a Rams lineman, recovered by the Knights at the Desert Mirage 20. Tony Williams Jr. made them pay with a 4-yard rushing score, one of three he had in the first half.
The senior rushing star finished the game with four scores — all on the ground — and had his way with the Desert Mirage defense, breaking shoe-string tackles and waiting patiently for holes to open up when there were none in sight.
Williams Jr. only needed 71 yards on the ground, but the short fields the Rams provided took away more yardage he could have had.
And with the resurgence of fellow tailback Jared Gipson, who ran for 100 yards and two scores on 13 carries, Williams Jr. wasn’t keyed in on as much, either.
“If he (Gipson) plays like he can play, then it certainly helps me,” Williams Jr. said. “Our line will open up lanes for both of us.”
But the same couldn’t be said for Desert Mirage’s offensive line. Although senior Melvin Harmon got back into a groove running around the edge with 123 yards on the ground after just 37 a week ago, the team’s potent back up the middle, Jesus Angel, amassed just 36 after three-straight games of more than 160 yards.
“The kids have to trust the system,” Tebelak said. “It’s there, but we just need to hit it faster and hit it harder. We’ve got to get some confidence back and trust the guys up front and run behind them.”
Once a team that looked primed for a De Anza League title race, the Rams have lost three straight, while the Knights continue to pick up speed with the hope of running through league play undefeated like a year ago.
A team on the ropes just weeks ago looks much improved after a week to refocus.
“It was a big win for us, with our first league game and opening up at home,” Williams Jr. said. “We just executed. … We’re getting better.”
SHADOW HILLS 49, DESERT MIRAGE 14
(SH): JD Lang 37-yard pass to Derwin Williams (PAT good)
(SH): Jared Gipson 15-yard run (PAT good)
(SH): Tony Williams Jr. 4-yard run (PAT good)
(DM): Alejandro Ortiz 1-yard run
(SH): Tony Williams Jr. 10-yard run (PAT good)
(SH): Tony Williams Jr. 18-yard run (PAT no good)
(SH): Tony Williams Jr. 3-yard run (2 point conversion good)
(DM): Adrian Guzman 16-yard pass to Frolian Rodriguez (PAT good)
(SH): Jared Gipson 8-yard run (PAT good)
RUSHING (Carries-Yds-TD) — SH: Williams 9-71-4, Lang 1-5-0, Gipson 13-100-2, Stovall 3-11-0. DM: Guzman 3-3-0, Harmon 21-123-0, Angel 9-36-0, J. Ortiz 4-9-0, Gil 4-22-0, A. Ortiz 3-35-1, Serrano 1-8-0, Ponce 1-2-0.
PASSING (Comp.-Att- INT—TD- Yds) — SH: Lang 5-5-0-1-93. DM: Guzman 2-7-2-1-27.
RECEIVING (Rec.-Yds-TD) — SH: Johnson 2-51-1, Tiaga 3-42-0. DM: F. Rodriguez 2-27-1.