Perseverance was the theme for Downey High’s week of preparation for Friday night’s game against Manteca.
The Knights showed plenty of perseverance, and heart, in a thrilling, exhausting and memorable victory.
Downey quarterback Bryce Gouker passed for 462 yards and six touchdowns — including five to wide receiver Lawrence Harris — in a 54-48 nonleague victory over the Buffaloes.
It was another dramatic ending, coming on the heels of last year’s 44-42 Downey victory.
“Our theme of the week this week was perseverance; it’s all we talked about,” Downey coach Jeremy Plaa said. “We knew Manteca was going to be a stronger opponent this week. And the kids didn’t give up, I mean, golly, how proud can I be of them the way they fought at the end?
“They were incredible.”
That would be a good way to describe the performance of Harris, a senior wide receiver who also helps out in the secondary when called upon.
Harris made big play after big play Friday, including TD receptions of 62 and 81 yards — the latter helping send the game to overtime.
The senior then made another big play in overtime, intercepting Manteca quarterback Ryan Ward in the end zone. The Knights, who had the second possession of OT, then finished off the game with a 1-yard TD run by Robert Rivera.
“He just is a special athlete,” Plaa said of Harris. “His numbers are going to be really big tonight. He was a huge part of our win.”
When Downey compiles its stats, Harris’ performance will surely be one of the greatest performances in the area’s history. Manteca couldn’t find a way to stop the 6-foot, 170-pounder.
“Honestly I just played my game,” Harris said. “Never thought I’d do something like this. Just played hard and did what I needed to do.”
Gouker did what he usually does, too, having a big night through the air. The senior completed 23 of 36 passes for six TDs and one interception.
After taking a 15-0 lead, the Knights were outscored 42-12. But Downey showed that perseverance they talked about so much the previous week.
Trailing 48-34 with 7:28 left in the game, Gouker rallied the Knights.
“I never doubt. I mean say we’re behind 30 points ... I have faith in the team that we’re going to come back,” Gouker said. “This team has more heart than any team out there, for sure.”
Manteca running back Trabron Russell was a handful for the Downey defense, rushing for 236 yards on 31 carries. Buffaloes wide receiver Jacob De Jesus had a huge night, too, scoring three touchdowns including a 76-yard TD run in the third quarter.
Manteca’s only turnover of the game came at a costly time, with the Buffaloes fumbling at Downey’s 4-yard line with just minutes left.
Rivera, Downey’s diminutive running back, rushed 17 times for 133 yards and two TDs, one a 70-yard blast up the middle.
Manteca (1-1) will play Granada of Livermore next week. Downey (2-0) will travel to Merced to take on the Bears.