The Modesto High Panthers leaped as the final seconds ticked off the clock Friday night. Their joy probably was tinged with a bit of shock.
The scoreboard at Chuck Hughes Stadium read Modesto 35, Grace Davis 0, a Senior Night dream come true for the Panthers.
"It's a pleasant surprise to win it the way we did," coach Rod Long admitted. The last three weeks, we've come to believe."
But seriously, who would have believed Davis (4-3, 1-1) running only three plays in Modesto territory and getting no closer than the 49-yard line? Who figured the Panthers (4-3, 2-0), now holding the inside path toward a Modesto Metro Conference title, bludgeoning Davis for 335 rushing yards?
By game's end, a crowd of nearly 2,000 walked away convinced. It was every bit as lopsided as the score.
The seeds to this thumping were sown a year ago, when Davis parlayed a bit of football benevolence -- a twice-tipped pass for a 64-yard touchdown to beat Modesto in the final moments -- that the Panthers stowed away in their memory bank.
"We remembered it in our hearts," said quarterback Klayton Miller, whose third touchdown, a 23-yard keeper in the fourth quarter, applied the exclamation point. "I've played nine years counting youth football, and I've never seen a team so pumped up during the week."
Better for them, the Panthers carried that desire onto the field. This was a one-trend game triggered by a steamroller of a first quarter -- Modesto 14 points and 185 rushing yards, Davis minus-2 yards and a turnover in five plays from scrimmage.
Simply, Modesto pounded the ball with running backs James Ingram (25 carries, 168 yards) and Arquel Rogers (18-113). Tackles Alejandro Cabrera and Anthony Amaya, guards Alex Martinez and Samuel Pallotta and center Miguel Yanez gouged huge holes in the Spartan defense. Ingram and Rogers often bounced through tackles and fell forward in a 180-degree flip of the wide-open offense preferred by most high school teams today.
The numbers bore out the story -- Modesto 15-6 in first downs and 335-127 in total yardage. Davis committed four turnovers to Modesto's 1 to further the damage.
"We hit them strong," said the 6-foot-6 340-pound Amaya, one of 24 Modesto seniors.
Late in the half, Modesto quickly positioned itself at the line in its "racehorse" offense. Ingram took a power-pitch and burst into open space like a cork popping off a champagne bottle. His 47-yard rip to the 5 led to a Miller TD dive and a 21-0 lead.
"Our plan," Long said, "was to run the ball."
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2302.