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Sunday, March 24 , 2019, 11:45 pm | Fair 51º

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Dos Pueblos Holds On to Win Opener for Coach Caines in His Debut

Brandon Miguel, Diego Cruz make big plays in 31-24 win over Foothill

Eric Lopez and Brandon Miguel Click to view larger
Eric Lopez (5) celebrates with Dos Pueblos teammate Brandon Miguel after scoring on a 39-yard run to give the Chargers a 21-0 lead in the second quarter. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

Winning the season opener is special for any football team.

For Dos Pueblos coach Doug Caines, Friday night’s hold-your-breath 31-24 victory over Santa Ana-Foothill at San Marcos’ Warkentin Stadium had added significance.

First, Caines won in his debut as head football coach of the Chargers.

Second, the victory came on the birthday of his late mother, Jo Ann Caines. The principal at La Cumbre Junior High and a rock star educator and administrator in the Santa Barbara Unified School District, Jo Ann Caines passed away in June.

“Talking to my sisters, it’s probably the most emotional day I’ve had in a long time,” said coach Caines after senior running back Eric Lopez gave DP a two-touchdown lead with an 8-yard touchdown run with 5:43 left in the game and Diego Cruz later recovered an onsides kick after Foothill scored to secure the victory.

“…The day is just full of unspeakable type of feelings,” Caines continued. “I’m so happy we could finish it off like this. My mom was at every game last year, including all the way down at Quartz Hill (for the CIF Division 10 final). The kids honored me by putting a ‘JC’ decal on the back of their helmets.

“It’s so special today, a story-book day for me. And I’m so happy for the kids.”

Dos Pueblos roared out to a 21-0 lead in the first half. David Leon broke off a 30-yard run for the first touchdown of the season on the Chargers’ first possession. Jesse Mollkoy kicked the PAT.

After Foothill missed a 25-yard field goal attempt, DP and its stable of running backs struck again. Diego Cruz blasted through the defense on a counter play and bolted 57 yards to the Knights’ 11. Brandon Miguel scored on the next play for a 14-0 lead at 11:56 of the second quarter.

Angel Flores Click to view larger
Dos Pueblos offensive tackle Angel Flores throws a block against Foothill in Friday’s season opener. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

Lopez made it 21-0, bouncing and spinning off defenders on an electrifying 39-yard TD run.

“I made a deal and it’s called ‘the agreement’ with the running backs,” Caines said. “It’s very simple: The way we play football we can block10 guys. That leaves one guy unblocked and it’s the running back’s job to make that guy miss, No matter how much you lift or how fast you are, your 40 time in shorts, if you can’t make that 11th guy miss, you’re not the right running back for us. And the guys take it personal. We expect to make one guy miss, and two or three is icing.”

Foothill running back Roman Pistone followed that same advice and made DP defenders miss. He capped an 80-yard drive with a 1-yard TD run with 3:27 to go in the first half. Pistone carried six times on the drive for 44 yards.  He rushed for 126 yards on 25 carries in the first half and finished the game with 191 yards on 33 carries.

Cruz recovered a Foothill fumble on a punt return and the Chargers capitalized with a 40-yard field goal by Molkoy to go up 24-7 at 8:40 of the third quarter.

Pistone kept Foothill within striking distance when he broke off a 30-yard run. Ryan Tuchman’s PAT cut DP’s lead to 24-14 with 4:00 left in the third quarter.

The Knights pulled within a touchdown (24-17) when Tuchman hit a field goal from 27 yards with 8:57 to go in the fourth quarter.

Miguel helped get the momentum back on DP’s side. He caught a 30-yard pass from Leon on third-and-6 play and, two plays later, broke off a 26-yard run up the middle to put the ball at the Foothill 8. Miguel had 69 yards on seven carries.

“It was special,” Caines said of Miguel’s clutch play. “As I talked about all the running backs we had, quote, unquote, he wasn’t one of them. It’s a testament  to the work that these guys have put in. Our fourth best running back exploded tonight.

“Sure the O-line matters and the blocking matters, but at the end of the day this is truly a family system.”

Lopez finished the drive with an 8-yard sweep around the left side for a 31-17 lead. He finished as DP's leading rushing with 94 yards on 13 carries.

"We were running a rocket sweep and I got a lot of good blocks," said Lopez of his second touchdown.

The DP running attack had a good night. Six different ball carriers combined for 313 rushing yards, including 181 in the first half.

Foothill quarterback JD Curran drove his team 68 yards for a score, hitting Pistone on a 5-yard pass to make it 31-24 with 2:05 left. 

The Knights hammered an onside kick off the leg a DP player and in the ensuing scramble Cruz came up with the ball.

The Chargers ran out the clock to claim victory for their coach and his family.

"It came down to some gumption and toughness," said Caines.

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