Ceres High’s football team reached the halfway point of the 2021 campaign this past week.
The Bulldogs improved to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the Western Athletic Conference standings with an emphatic 56-8 Homecoming victory against visiting Beyer Friday evening at CUSD Stadium.
The Patriots dropped to 0-5 and 0-2.
“No offense to Beyer,” Ceres High all-purpose player Verlis Smith said. “But that’s a game we’re supposed to win. Our team played great. I’m proud of my guys. Now, we just got to keep it going.”
Smith rushed for 118 yards and three touchdowns on nine carries while filling in for starting quarterback Landyn Hudson, who was sidelined with a rib injury.
His lone pass attempt resulted in a 23-yard TD.
“It was tough not being able to see him (Hudson) play,” said Smith, whose main position on offense is receiver. “He’s a great player. I hope he can come back soon.”
Smith found out he was going to start against Beyer the Tuesday leading up to the game.
“I felt comfortable out there,” said Smith, who played quarterback the final three quarters following Hudson’s injury in Ceres High’s 23-6 loss at Lathrop on Sept. 17. “I got a lot more reps at practice this week to get the team prepared. We didn’t run a lot of our regular plays. Our condensed playbook was working.”
Junior Tarrell Lee-Gill carried the ball nine times for 127 yards and two touchdowns.
Junior Kahmi Smith gained 12 yards and scored one TD on two carries.
Austin Munguia caught one pass for 23 yards and one touchdown.
Yahir Medina converted all eight of his point-after kicks.
The Bulldogs put the contest out of reach by outscoring Beyer 42-0 in the opening half.
“Getting a win in front of our fans felt really good,” Verlis Smith said. “There’s always more pressure during a Homecoming game. We were focused. We had fun. We did what we were supposed to do.”
The Bulldogs are allowing just 13.4 points per game this season.
Austin Munguia filled the stat sheet against Beyer with five tackles, three pass deflections, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
“You watch kids progress and anticipate what they’re going to be the next year,” Johnson said. “When he didn’t finish the season with us last year, we didn’t know if he would come back. He’s one of the best cornerbacks in the league—his coverage and tackling skills. He has a great nose for the ball. Great attitude. Very coachable.”
Ricky Stanley returned an interception 2 yards for a TD. He also had one pass deflection and one forced fumble.
Isaiah Rodriguez collected four tackles.
Eli Beltran and Donivan Turley both had two tackles, one interception and one pass deflection.
Josh Prestridge and Kahmi Smith chipped in with three tackles and one pass deflection apiece.
Lebron Stallworth tallied two tackles and one sack.
“Great defense takes team work,” Ceres High defensive coordinator Brett Johnson said. “I’ve been preaching that the last 30 years I’ve been coaching at Ceres.”
“We’re more talented than we have been in quite a while,” he added. “We got some athletes. They’re way more aggressive and disciplined. We’ve added in different components that take a higher football IQ to use.”
The Bulldogs matched their combined win total for their previous three seasons.
Ceres High finished 2-2 last year, 0-10 in 2019 and 1-9 in 2018.
“I’m not really surprised,” Verlis Smith while talking about the Bulldogs’ recent success. “I knew we were going to have a phenomenal season. We can do great things. We got to stay motivated, hungry and keep going. We can’t let up at all. Everybody at Ceres High is talking about playoffs. I think our team is capable of doing that.”
The Bulldogs have five games remaining on their conference schedule.
Ceres High will play host to Johansen (1-5, 0-2) this Friday at 7 p.m.
The Bulldogs defeated the Vikings 42-16 in a fill-in game on Sept. 10.
“I’m excited where we’re at,” Johnson said. “We got a group of kids that work hard and give it their all. If we win each week, everything else will take care of itself at the end of the season.”