The usual stars showed up for the Downey High football team Friday night.
Running back Robert Rivera ran for three touchdowns. Quarterback Bryce Gouker and receiver Lawrence Harris connected for two TDs.
But there was a surprise performance in the Knights’ victory over Gregori — a dominant defense.
Downey’s defensive unit, which until Friday had struggled to slow opposing offenses, played its best game of the season — by far — in a 36-0 thrashing of the Jaguars.
The Knights came into the game allowing nearly 42 points per contest. But Downey not only earned the shutout, the Knights also forced two turnovers.
“I think a lot of people pay attention to how many points we give up,” Downey coach Jeremy Plaa said. “What we care about is giving up less than the other team.
“The defense played a complete game tonight ... very aggressive. The coaches had them ready for everything (Gregori) could throw at them.”
Gregori senior quarterback Baker Melendez was hounded all night by the Knights’ defensive front and was held to 5-of-15 passing for 41 yards and an interception.
Gregori’s lone spark on offense was senior running back Titus Rhiney, who rushed for 104 on 16 carries.
The Jaguars punted six times, gave up a fumble and an interception, and failed to convert on two fourth-down passes.
It was the kind of defensive effort that can give Downey confidence moving forward.
“Our game plan was just to be really aggressive, and play hard and pursue the ball,” Downey linebacker and captain David Gorman said. “I’m so happy the way our defense played. We struggled the last couple of games, but we really picked it up today.”
While Downey’s defense was the big star of the night, the usual suspects, all seniors, led the Knights’ offense.
Gouker passed for 180 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 91 yards on seven carries. Rivera rushed for 75 yards and three short TDs on 15 carries. And Harris caught two TDs, for 9 and 20 yards. He also intercepted a Gregori pass and returned it 80 yards late in the game.
With Turlock seemingly cruising to a Central California Athletic League title, the victory likely puts the Knights (5-3, 2-1) in playoff position.
Downey has two very winnable games to close out the regular season — at Pitman (2-6) next week and at home against Modesto (1-7) on Nov. 1.
Gregori, meanwhile, has to face Turlock next week, then closes out the regular season against Enochs on Nov. 1.
First-year Jaguars coach Lamar Wallace said he expects his team (5-3, 2-1 CCAL) to bounce back after the tough loss.
“There’s no time to sit here and feel sorry for ourselves,” Wallace said. “We’re still in contention right now to play for a share of the title, so we’re going to get back to the drawing board on Monday and get ready for another tough opponent.”