Downey High's road to a Modesto Metro Conference football championship has few potholes and no major roadblocks remaining after Thursday's 45-14 victory over Enochs.
But the real shocker wasn't the Knights' margin of victory, it was how little they needed to do offensively to subdue the Eagles at Johansen High.
On a night in which Downey's record-setting quarterback Aaron Zwahlen barely compiled enough yards to fill one side of a vinyl album, the Eagles greased the skids with enough mistakes to last an entire season.
Among the mistakes committed by Enochs were four turnovers and 161 yards in penalties. All of that conspired to let Downey dominate the action despite a Zwahlen night that saw the senior complete 14 of 26 passes for 127 yards.
Three of those passes went for scores to give him 36 touchdown passes for the season, but at no time were the Knights forced to march down the field using their trademark short passing game,
Enochs, through its litany of mistakes, did almost all of that work for Downey.
Nonetheless, the Knights will take a 7-1 overall record and 4-0 MMC mark into its final two games against Davis and Beyer, both on the Downey turf.
Enochs (5-4, 4-1) will need to defeat Davis on Nov. 2 on the Johansen field to assure itself a spot in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
The large crowd was forced to wait until 8:24 p.m. for the kickoff, giving those expecting a close game another reason to leave early.
Downey rolled out to a 38-7 halftime lead, an insurmountable margin only half its doing. In the first half alone Enochs suffered three turnovers, had a bad punt snap give the Knights possession at the Eagles' 2, had two other poor punts give Downey a short field and committed nine penalties.
All of that added up to a pretty easy time for Downey, which didn't have to do anything particularly special to get into the end zone five times in the opening 24 minutes.
But there still were some special moments for the Knights. Zwahlen completed 11 of 17 passes in the opening half for 108 yards, including scores covering 15 yards to Blake Lopes and 8 yards to Juan Vaa-Ayala.
What was special for Downey was the play of its special teams. Thomas Reynolds was perfect on five conversion kicks and added a 27-yard field goal, but Herman Harris was the player who made the Knights' special teams sparkle.
The senior speedster broke off a 70-yard punt return that boosted Downey's lead to 35-0 with 6:59 left in the half, and moments later his 35-yard punt return set up Reynolds' field goal for a 38-0 lead.
Only then did Enochs go to the air. Eagles' quarterback Shawn Munoz threw only one pass in Enochs' first 21 offensive plays long enough for Downey to go up 35-0. But Munoz hit Joshua Quevedo for passes covering 32 and 40 yards in the final 3:30 before halftime.
The first pass set-up the Eagles for their first score, a 1-yard burst by Gabriel Lindsey-Turner with 2:11 remaining before halftime.
The second pass also put Enochs in scoring position, but Munoz threw a pass into the end zone that was intercepted by Cooper Hennigan with one minute left before halftime.
Zwahlen's final scoring pass was an 8-yard strike to Tristan Best with 9:09 left in the third quarter and it gave Downey a 45-7 lead, which turned the fourth quarter into a running-clock contest.
But Enochs was able to celebrate one final score as Munoz hit Queveda from 10 yards out, accounting for the final 31-point margin.
The Eagles actually outpassed the Knights in a true statistical quirk. Enochs finished with 207 yards through the air, with Munoz accounting for 157 of those.
But the game's leading ground gainers turned out to be the officiating crew, which tossed 31 flags for 286 yards. In addition to Enochs' 17 penalties, Downey marched backward 14 times for 125 yards.
Downey and Enochs, the top two teams in the Modesto Metro Conference, met on Thursday for city supremacy. Take a look at the video as the Knights pulled away early against their rivals.
Enochs' Turner scores on short TD run. (Richard T. Estradafirstname.lastname@example.org)
Downey's Best hauls in touchdown catch. (Richard T. Estradaemail@example.com)
Downey's Herman Harris takes punt return to the house. (Richard T. Estradafirstname.lastname@example.org)
Downey's Aaron Zwahlan hits Blake Lopes for a touchdown. (Richard T. Estradaemail@example.com)
Downey's Juan Vaa-Ayala scores on a short run . (Richard T. Estradafirstname.lastname@example.org)