Game-planning against the Antelope Titans is easy. Stopping Elijah Dotson is hard.
So far this season no coaching staff and no opposing group of defenders has been able to stop or even slow down the quick and powerful Titans running back.
Del Oro, the defending section and state champs, contained Dotson by holding the prolific runner to a season-low 58 yards and claimed a spot in next week’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division II finals with a 50-10 victory in Loomis.
“(To stop him), you have to play team defense,” Golden Eagles coach Casey Taylor said before the game. “He has a lot of speed, a lot of power, and we have to be gap-sound and tackle really well. We have to leverage him and not stop him with one guy but team defense and try to eliminate the big plays. We know he’s going to have a few but just try to eliminate them and hope they aren’t for big touchdowns.”
Dotson entered the game with 2,170 yards and 25 touchdowns and started off with three consecutive runs for a combined 15 yards. Then, the Golden Eagles swooped, and Dotson really wasn’t a factor as the Titans were forced to pass more and run less. Also, Hunter Halverson and Israel Luna were controlling the line of scrimmage and disrupting any momentum the Titans tried to build.
Dotson did score in the third quarter on a nifty 41-yard pass that he took at the line of scrimmage and tiptoed along the sideline.
But the Golden Eagles’ offense, led by quarterback Stone Smartt, was efficient and sharp all game long. Smartt rushed for scores of 12, 3 and 2 yards in the second half and had an 81-yard scoring pass to Camrion Davis. But Davis gets the most credit for the play that broke the game open in the second quarter. He took the screen pass at the line of scrimmage at the end of the line, shook off two tacklers, broke to the middle of the field and outran the Titans’ secondary.
“We have a good offense ourselves,” Taylor said. “We have to get the ball to our guys and make some plays.”
And they did.
Next up is the winner of Saturday’s semifinal between host Jesuit and Inderkum. The section final will be played at Sacramento State’s Hornet Field. Del Oro has won 10 section titles since 1989, five of those under Taylor, and after a 2-6 start last season advanced to and won the D-II state title.
Practicing on Thanksgiving has become a tradition at Del Oro. The Golden Eagles practiced from 7 to 9 a.m. and had some alumni, such as current Colorado Buffalo Trey Udoffia and former Stanford quarterback Randy Fasani, speak to the team.
“One of our goals in January was to practice on Thanksgiving, and that means you’re pretty far into the playoffs,” Taylor said. “We had school Monday and Tuesday, which is a huge advantage in keeping things normal. We’ve been here. We’re used to it. And our process has worked for us through the years.”
Mark Billingsley is a Carmichael-based freelance writer: email@example.com or @editorwriter001
Antelope (12-0) 0 3 7 0 – 10
Del Oro (10-2) 11 15 3 21 – 50
DO – Gee 3 run (M. Hurst run)
DO – Calvert 30 field goal
A – Gomez 31 field goal
DO –Davis 81 pass from Smartt (Smartt run)
DO - Craythorn 2 pass from Smartt (Calvert kick)
DO – Calvert 22 field goal
DO – Smartt 12 run (Calvert kick)
A – Dotson 41 pass from Spagnola (Gomez kick)
DO – Smartt 3 run (Calvert kick)
DO – Smartt 2 run (Calvert kick)