DENAIR—Dalton Day fielded Denair’s opening kickoff at Summerville’s 20 yard-line close to the right sideline.
Bears receiver Connor Morningstar (84) blasts his way forward for a first down after making a second-quarter reception against Denair on Friday. DEENA KORAL-SOTO/UNION DEMOCRAT
This was Friday night in Denair.
“We wanted to set the tempo,” said Summerville’s Eddie Carpenter, who was blocking on the Bears’ front line some 25 yards ahead of Day. “We wanted to start this game off with a bang.”
Did they ever.
Day didn’t run forward though. He ran to his left.
“It was ‘Return right’ all the way,” explained Day. “I ran over to Tanner Krieg and gave him a clean handoff. I just kept faking as if I still had the ball.”
“That fake by Dalton was excellent,” said Krieg. “I snuck a look back at him to make Denair think I didn’t have the ball and I see them all chasing him.”
Krieg hid that football behind his right thigh at the 19-yard line, took a few jog-steps and gave off a ho-hum shrug.
“I believe 10 of their 11 guys went after me,” said Day. “There was only one guy for Tanner to beat.”
So Krieg turned on the jets. With one defender in his way at the 30, Krieg juked left, right, left, right and — poof! Just like that, he was gone. Krieg flew down the right sidelines, completing an 81-yard kickoff TD return. The Bears led 7-0 and that was all the points they’d need.
Summerville led 45-0 at halftime and left town 48-6 victors, remaining undefeated at 3-0.
“We knew coming into this game, that Denair wasn’t at our level,” said Bears quarterback/cornerback Colton Ebbers. “But we don’t ever underestimate anybody. Our spirits stayed high, we kept playing tough and we didn’t take our foot off the gas until it was the proper time to do so.”
Bears senior defensive end Darren Vallelunga, with his steel-beam arms, was out-and-out beastly in the short time his coaches allowed him to play.
On Denair’s first six running plays, Vallelunga made five of the tackles.
Of those five Vallelunga takedowns, three were for no gain, one was three yards in the backfield and the other a 2-yard loss.
“Darren was amazing,” said Carpenter. “Their first six runs of the game, he makes the stop on five of ‘em? Amazing.”
“It was crazy,” said Krieg of Vallelunga’s efforts. “He was unstoppable. And I sure love the fact that he’s on my team.”
“Darren was getting through their line every play,” said Bears inside backer Trevor Larsson. “Nobody can stop him.”
“He was just too fast and too strong for them to deal with,” said Bears head coach Ben Watson of Vallelunga. “He just came off the ball and got right after it right off the bat. I would not have wanted to be the guy trying to block him tonight. That was a tough break for their running game trying to go his way.”
“We came out to play tonight,” said Vallelunga. “I’m always fired up at the start of a game. I went my hardest tonight and good things kept happening for us.”
By the end of one quarter, Day had picked off a pass from his safety spot, Ebbers scored twice on quarterback keepers (25 and 14 yards), Jesse Roberson booted a 30-yard field goal and Summerville had a 24-0 lead.
With 7:41 left in the first half, Krieg took an up-the-gut handoff, broke three tackles and scampered onwards for a 67-yard TD run.
Summerville led 31-0 so Krieg’s night at fullback was over. The 6-1, 195-pound Krieg — half-pit bull, half-cheetah — carried six times total for a game-high 138 yards.
“Once Tanner gets to the second level,” said Watson, “it’s pretty tough for a defensive back to tackle him, because he’s got some moves. Plus, Tanner is willing to run you over.”
“Tanner is a sensational running back,” said Ebbers. “He’s just a powerhouse who never stops.”
Bears defensive back Garett Bell had his first-career interception midway through the second quarter. Four plays later, Roberson hit tight end Rosendo Amaya-Wood 15-yards downfield and Amaya-Wood took it to the house for a 50-yard aerial score.
Summerville’s Austin McCready made a solid hit on the ensuing kickoff causing a fumbled football — which teammate Ross Whalen promptly cradled.
Four plays later, Roberson tallied on a 2-yard keeper to close out the first-half scoring.
Summerville started working members of its second team into this contest by the end of the first quarter. Most impressive on this second unit was the unending hustle and superlative play of Carpenter, a 5-foot-7, 230-pound defensive tackle.
“What a great job by Eddie Carpenter tonight,” said Day. “I told him, ‘When you get your chance, just go hard, Eddie.’ He said, ‘I’ll do my best.’ As everyone could see, he meant it.”
Carpenter slammed Denair running back Alex Valle into the turf for a meager 2-yard gain on the first third-quarter scrimmage play. On the final snap of the third quarter, Carpenter recovered a fumble at Denair’s 2-yard line.
“Eddie was pumped up, active, moving around a lot,” said Watson. “He’s a great team player who is very coachable. It was really nice to see him go out there, succeed and play some strong football. He’s always on our special teams because we know we can rely on him, he works hard and he’ll do good things for us. Overall, he had a very good game tonight.”
For Summerville, inside backer Erik Wold tied Vallelunga for team-high tackling honors at five, Bell and Whalen had four apiece and defensive back Andrew Brennan had his first-career pick.
In the contest’s final three plays, Denair gained 89 yards — one a 52-yard scoring toss — and ended with 164 yards passing total. Denair attempted 18 runs verse Summerville and the net result was minus-2 yards.
Summerville attempted no passes after the five-minute mark of the first half, ending 4-for-4 for 66 aerial yards.
While Denair has 24 players on its roster, only seven are seniors. Summerville suited only 22 players on Friday but clearly is a better football team and did all it could not to embarrass Denair (0-3). The Bears didn’t trash-talk, taunt, anything of the sort.
In fact, post-game, Denair’s principal asked Watson to address his team to commend the Bears on their sportsmanship.
“A very classy move that was for Denair’s principal to talk to our guys,” said Watson. “He said our kids played with class and, as a coach, that made me awfully proud of our guys.”
On Friday, Tuolumne will play host to a terrific matchup: Summerville vs. undefeated Hughson, who has outscored opponents 113-7 in its three wins.
“We know it’s our toughest preseason game,” said Amaya-Wood. “We’ll be ready for them.”
“Next week is our biggest test so far,” said Larsson. “Hughson is good. We need to come out and set the tempo — like we did tonight.”
“We are not where we want to be as a team yet,” said Watson. “We’ll know a little bit more about ourselves next week. Hughson is a very, very tough opponent.”
“We’ve got great team unity,” said Vallelunga. “There is so much potential on our football team. We know we’re playing a tough team — but we’re tough, too.”
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