High School Sports

For Inderkum, winging it works to a T in 69-29 playoff victory against Downey of Modesto

Inderkum Tigers Aaron Espero (14), seen in August, scored three times, including a 69-yard run and 40-yard catch, for the 11-0 Tigers in their Nov. 9, 2018, win against Downey of Modesto.
Inderkum Tigers Aaron Espero (14), seen in August, scored three times, including a 69-yard run and 40-yard catch, for the 11-0 Tigers in their Nov. 9, 2018, win against Downey of Modesto. Brian Baer/Special to The Bee

That old wing-T, you just have to love it, unless you’re a Downey Knight.

The No. 3 Inderkum Tigers used the ancient deception offense Friday to crush No. 11 Downey of Modesto 69-29 in North Natomas to advance to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II semifinals next week against Central Catholic of Modesto. No. 2 Central Catholic beat No. 10 Elk Grove 49-7 on Friday.

Downey used its spread offense last week in the opening round of the playoffs to beat Grant 57-27. And the Knights got on the board first against the Tigers, but then the wing-T started churning and burning.

Aaron Espero and Ray Brown each scored three times for the 11-0 Tigers. Espero had a 69-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that had fans in both grandstands wondering if what they saw was real. Espero, a junior, spun, juked and danced his way through heavy traffic, picking off three great blocks down field that cleared the way to the end zone. He added a 40-yard TD catch from quarterback JJ Ray.

Inderkum head coach Terry Stark has been running the wing-T for more than four decades and will likely run the offensive scheme for as long as he remains a head coach. Why change when your offense is as potent as this one? The Tigers are into the section semifinals for the seventh time in eight years.

“Pitman runs the wing-T and Pitman beat (Downey) 37-33,” Stark said. “You gotta run what you know. Why don’t I run it? I’d have to stop coaching for a couple of years to learn it. A lot of coaches now have been running it since they were in high school. That’s not me.”

Stark said before the game that Downey ran the spread offense as well as he’s seen and were able to run out of the pass-heavy offense very well. But his defense was able to contain Bryce Gouker and a Knights offense that was averaging 420 yards of offense per game and had scored 63 touchdowns before making the second consecutive drive up Highway 99. Brown had a 76-yard interception return for a score and Javi Daniels scooped up a fumble and ran 35 yards for another TD.

“It almost like you have to have two defenses now – your base defense and one for just against spread teams,” Stark said. “You have to be able to cover a lot of space but make sure you can still defend the run.”

Daniels also had a 90-yard kickoff return for a score.

Much of the Tigers’ wing-T runs through and around left tackle Brandon Knott. Knott, who also plays defensive end, is a 6-foot-2, 255-pound bruiser who is quick enough for the seal blocks that the wing-T demands but can straight up pancake defenders if he gets his pads squarely on them. He was such a dominant force in the Capital Valley Conference this season that he was named its most valuable player.

“He was the Lineman of the Year in the last season and this year he was the MVP,” Stark said. “I don’t know how many linemen who become MVPs of a league. He squats 500 pounds, benches 350 and cleans 300. It’s amazing to think what he’s done in playing only three seasons.”

Stark brought him up to the varsity as a sophomore and by the end of the season he was a starter.

“He’s relentless down field too,” Stark said Knott. “His highlight reel is really something to watch. He’s been offered (full-ride scholarship) by Azusa Pacific and Eastern Washington. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t have many more offers soon. His dad is 6-4, and I think Brandon will be 280 pounds at least.”

Isaiah Ward, a tight end and outside linebacker, has already garnered a scholarship offer from Sacramento State, Stark said. Both Knott and Ward are scholars in the classroom, as well, Stark added.

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