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PREP FOOTBALL

Del Oro rolls past Woodcreek 48-14, awaits playoff seeding

Eagles finish 8-2 overall; 4-2 in SFL heading into postseason
By: Cameron Salerno - For The Auburn Journal
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Despite turnovers on their first two offensive possessions, Del Oro's offense found its rhythm midway through the first quarter and never looked back. The Eagles found the end zone seven total times Friday night en route to a 48-14 victory over visiting Woodcreek.

Del Oro’s senior quarterback Stone Smartt accounted for four of those scores in the win as his team enters the 2016 section playoffs with some momentum. 

“It’s just like our coach always says, ‘We just have to forget about the mistakes and move on to the next play,” Smartt acknowledged. “We had to regroup and get back after it. That’s the same mentality we’re taking for the playoffs. It’s 0-0 and we need to act like the playoffs are the start of a new season.”

The Eagles, who finished the regular season with an 8-2 overall mark and a 4-2 record in the Sierra Foothill League following Friday’s win over Woodcreek, enter the postseason as the third seed from the SFL. The win also puts DO in good position to earn a top seed, and maybe a home playoff game, depending on how the brackets shapes out Saturday. 

Meanwhile, the loss drops Woodcreek to 4-6 this season after finishing 5-5 last year. The T-Wolves, who struggled to win two games in league play, were without the SFL’s leading rusher, Isaiah Ajayi, who sat out the contest due to an illness that kept him out all week. 

That meant other players would have to step up and fill his void, not only on the offensive side of the ball, but on the defensive side as well. Sophomore Matt Willford was one of those guys called upon and he made two big plays early in the game as he picked off Smartt on back-to-back drives in the opening frame.

“Matt stepped up tonight, and he’s only a sophomore,” Woodcreek’s co-head coach Brad Hunkins admitted. “He is definitely moving in the right direction and it is something he can capitalize on moving into this spring and into the summer.”

Even though Woodcreek forced two early turnovers, the T-Wolves couldn’t convert the opportunities into points. The team missed a field goal attempt before giving the ball right back to Del Oro on a fumble. That was all Smartt needed. 

The experienced signal caller bounced back with a 21-yard TD on a designed quarterback keeper to put the Eagles on the scoreboard first.

Smartt and co. got the ball back after a three-and-out from Woodcreek and wasted no time getting into the end zone. Running back Dalton Gee broke free for an 84-yard touchdown run to put his team up, 20-0 after the two-point conversion failed. Smartt added another QB sneak for a score late in the first half to give his team a 28-0 lead at halftime. 

The T-Wolves bounced back after the break with a 35-yard touchdown run from Tyler England, but Del Oro responded quickly. Smartt used a play-action fake to lure the defense in before tossing one of two passing touchdowns to his favorite target, senior wideout Mason Hurst. The two playmakers connected on a pair of 40-yard scores through the air in the third period to give the Eagles a 41-7 lead.

“When we go in that heavy package we run a lot, and we did that the whole game and we hadn't thrown once,” Hurst explained. “So we decided to surprise them and go deep with it and it worked.”

Both teams added a touchdown in the fourth period, but Woodcreek could not close the gap. The T-Wolves’ season came to a close with the 48-14 decision and the staff will say goodbye to their 22 seniors, who played in their final prep game Friday. 

“This senior class has really worked hard, they have busted their butts for four years to give this program a chance to be successful,” Hunkins acknowledged. “It was very hard to watch them take off their pads for the final time.”

As for Del Oro, the Eagles will await the bracket announcement Saturday afternoon to find out where they will stand in the Division 2 section playoffs. The team is hoping for a home game, or more to kick-start their run back to the title game. 

“In the past, we have almost been undefeated in the playoffs at home,” Hurst admitted. “So it’s definitely an advantage having home-field for most of the playoffs. I feel we are on a high-road and we just have to stay on that path.”