For all that has been said and written about Downey High's often-prolific spread offense, the Knights' defense has given them a step up in the Modesto Metro Conference race.
Downey twice stopped Gregori on drives inside the 10, and quarterback P.J. Wilson ran for two touchdowns and passed for two more as the Knights claimed a 27-15 victory at Chuck Hughes Stadium.
"This defense is relentless and that's also our motto," Wilson said. "We're moving at all times, never trailing the play, all 11 at all times."
Downey will take a 2-0 MMC record, 4-2 overall, into next week's game against Modesto at Gregori, the first time the Knights will step foot on the city's newest field. The Jaguars are 4-2 overall and 1-1 in the MMC.
There was a scary moment just as the game was getting started. Downey offensive coordinator Lynn Zwahlen walked over to the attending ambulance, complained of chest pains, and asked to be taken to a hospital.
"I got a text that said he never lost consciousness, he's on meds and asking for updates, so that's a good sign," said Downey coach Jeremy Plaa. "He's had a few issues the last year, and said he was having some chest pains, so he was alert enough to walk over and get it taken care of."
Zwahlen calls the plays for the Knights, and Plaa had to take over those duties. But the most successful play-calling Downey enjoyed came on the other side of the ball.
Gregori, which rolled up 364 yards of offense, including 107 and a score from running back Alex Labanon, twice had drives stall just a few yards short of the goal line.
The first drive came right at the end of the second quarter, when the Jags, trailing 12-7, moved from their own 36 to the Downey 2. With six seconds left and out of time outs, Gregori tried on a third down play to get Labanon loose on a sweep of left end, but the play was stuffed.
Then, with Downey nursing a 19-15 lead after three quarters, Gregori again had a drive that started at its own 36 then moved deep into Knights' territory. Facing a fourth-and-2 at the Downey 6, the Jags again went to Labanon on a sweep left, and again the play was stuffed.
Downey, after taking possession at the 8, moved 92 yards in 12 plays and ate up more than five minutes of the remaining time, with Wilson bulling over from the 1 in a jumbo formation for the clinching score.
The Knights, in a position to use a lot of the clock, turned to running back Mario Sanchez, who finished the game with 108 yards on 16 carries. He also caught one of Wilson's touchdown passes.
"Give credit there to the offensive line and to Mario Sanchez," Wilson said. "He's an unbelievable running back and he does a lot for me. Without him and the line I certainly wouldn't be the quarterback I am."
But in the end, it was the Downey defense that saved the day. In addition to the two stops in the red zone, the Knights picked off two Gregori passes.
"The defense tightened up and did what they were supposed to do," Plaa said. "All the kids played hard tonight.
"A little bit of last year's experience is coming into play, as is the constant competing they do in practice every single day. They played well and the offense got it together in the second half and moved the ball without much problem."
Brian VanderBeek can be reached at (209) 578-2150 or follow him on Twitter, @modestobeek