High School Football

Behind Rivera’s seven touchdowns, Downey snaps losing streak with win over Enochs

On 3rd-and-11 in a tight game early in the fourth quarter, Downey High quarterback Bryce Gouker scrambled to his left, looking for a way out of a jam.

It’s no surprise he turned to running back Robert Rivera to save the day — and maybe the season.

The senior running back, who to that point in the game had scored five touchdowns, hauled in the pass and finished off a 36-yard scoring play to help guide the Knights to a 56-40 victory over Enochs on Friday night.

The victory snapped Downey’s three game losing streak as the Knights improved to 1-1 in the Central California Athletic League and 4-3 overall.

Rivera, a 5-foot-5, 135-pound senior, would tack on a seventh touchdown and finish with 308 total yards, ruining homecoming night for Enochs (1-1, 4-3) and the Eagles’ chance of beating Downey for the first time since 2010.

“He was incredible and will probably be sore next week,” Knights coach Jeremy Plaa said.

Rivera had three rushing touchdowns in the first quarter, all 2 yards or less, on a play called “Money”.

Plaa said the team struggled with short-yardage runs in last week’s loss to Turlock so they created a formation where they brought in multiple linemen to line up at fullback with Rivera behind them.

“The line held up and we were able to push through,” Rivera said.

While Rivera’s seven TDs were eye-opening, Plaa said he was impressed most with the couple of plays where his running back got the extra yards on 3rd-and-long to extend drives.

“We were hungry for the win,” said Rivera, whose team hosts Gregori next week.

After three straight losses, Plaa said Monday’s practice was shaky. Rivera said the team focused on the “little things” throughout the week, and it showed early on.

Downey led 20-7 after one quarter and 33-14 at halftime and looked to be running away with the game. However, Enochs rallied and trailed by five midway through the third quarter before the Knights responded with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Gouker to senior wide receiver Joseph Easterwood.

Gouker finished with 466 passing yards and four touchdowns.

Enochs senior running back Christian Cervantes had 28 carries for 109 yards and two touchdowns and senior quarterback Ben Harless had three touchdowns. Enochs plays Turlock next week at Gregori.

While some might overlook his size, Rivera showed just how multi-talented he was with the performance on Friday. In addition to 62 yards rushing, he had 246 yards receiving and now has 15 touchdowns this season.

“I won’t go down easily,” Rivera said.

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Julian A. Lopez has been covering local sports for The Modesto Bee since August 2018. He graduated from Arizona State in 2016 with a BA in Journalism.