Seconds after Davis defensive back Donovan Garvin hauled in a Jesuit desperation heave to seal a 24-20 Delta League win Friday night, the Blue Devils and their fans let it all out.
A wave of students stormed onto the field to celebrate with the players. After the handshake, a mosh pit of Davis players bounced off each other, pushing, celebrating and barking a call and response: “You mess with the devil? You get the horns.” Senior running back Taylor Vaughn flexed his arms down and repeatedly shouted to nobody in particular “We did it!”
Football teams have memories. And for a Davis team that went 0-10 just two years ago, beating a Marauders squad that took it to them last year was extra sweet. Last year, Jesuit won a chippy game 42-27. Senior Blue Devils receiver/quarterback Payne Barksdale glowed while talking about winning Friday. Just don’t call it revenge.
“Like coach said, last year we lost to them, but it’s not about revenge,” Barksdale said. “Revenge involves hate. We don’t hate like that. We’re about love. We’re about atonement and holding someone accountable That’s what we did. We got it handed to us last year against Jesuit, we handed it to them this year. That’s atonement. That’s atonement.”
A 7-1 team doesn’t usually savor a win over a team that’s now 3-5. But this is Jesuit, which also beat Davis 61-3 just two years ago. The Blue Devils went 0-10 in 2017, and coach Steve Smyte was just happy his kids are now near the top of the Delta League and close to sealing a playoff spot.
“A lot of those seniors, two years ago, they were a part of that 0-10 team,” Smyte said. “I’m just so happy for them that they weathered that. ... They’re just such great kids. It goes way beyond football. I am blessed to coach this team.”
Fittingly, the seniors shined Friday night.
Barksdale split time between wide receiver and quarterback, where he was mostly a running threat. He had 70 yards rushing and a touchdown. Senior Taylor Vaughn galloped for 119 yards and a touchdown. And quarterback Luke Carrell, a mere junior, was efficient in the second half, completing 4 of 5 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown.
Not bad for a team down to its second- and third-string linemen.
None of it surprised Smyte, who said the Blue Devils present a multi-pronged problem for other teams to solve.
“One of the things we talked about from the beginning is to have that balance,” he said. “I think as you get into the playoffs and play better teams, if you’re a one-trick pony, you’re going to have a harder time.”
Vaughn wasn’t surprised by his team’s effectiveness. They’ve stuck together since fourth grade, when they started playing football. Down a lineman? Next man up.
“Shout out to all my linemen. I love all my linemen,” Vaughn said. “I appreciate everything they do for me. Every single time I get those plays, it’s because of my linemen. The whole team would be nothing without the linemen we have.”
One of those linemen, senior Gerad Christian-Lictenhan, came up with an unlikely huge play in the third quarter, blocking a Jesuit extra-point try to preserve Davis’ 21-20 lead. A Blue Devils field goal gave them a 24-20 margin. With just a few minutes left, the line surged again, with Vaughn and Barksdale combining a pair of runs to earn a first down. Then Vaughn picked up 7 and 9 yards on successive runs for another first down to mostly run out the clock and effectively seal the win.
All of the Blue Devils had something to celebrate Friday night. Interviews with players were interrupted for posed photos with a reporter. Smyte paused an interview to kiss his wife and greet a friend. Wins might be a bit sweeter for this team than a traditional powerhouse.