College of the Sequoias' football team started fast, closed with a defensive swarm and celebrated a successful afternoon on its campus field by drenching a pair of coaches.
The Giants rolled to their first win of the season, a 40-19 nonconference thumping of San Joaquin Delta on Sept. 18 as their offense scored the game's first 14 points and their defense pitched a second-half shutout, prompting victory water bucket dunkings for first-year coach Travis Burkett and defensive coordinator Raven Keene.
"It's not about me getting No. 1, it's really not. It's about the entire organization, the program, and most importantly the players and assistant coaches and all the other adults that pour into these guys," Burkett said. "And in our program, for us to get the first, it's just human nature to say, 'OK, we can do this.' We all knew we could do it."
Sequoias (1-2) rebounded against Delta (0-3) after opening the season with two tough losses.
The Giants gave up an 89-yard kickoff return with 1:22 left in the game to let a late lead slip away during a 24-21 home loss to JC Athletic Bureau Coaches' Poll No. 9-ranked Butte on Sept. 4.
Then, at state top-ranked San Mateo on Sept. 11, Sequoias allowed a close 14-0 halftime deficit to disintegrate into a 41-0 blowout.
"We all knew that Butte is a national program that we basically would have run out of here if we would have detailed it up a little bit, and we know the caliber of team (San Mateo) we went and played on the road," Burkett said. "I think one thing that the coaches and the players are doing a good job of around here is not running away from the truth. The thing that happened (against Delta), everybody made a decision about their individual commitment to what we want to get done."
The Giants jumped ahead of Delta 14-0 in the first quarter, getting a 26-yard touchdown pass from Nathan Lamb (Tulare Union) to Jayson Littlejohn (Sierra Pacific-Hanford), and an 8-yard scoring run by John Friend (Pearland, Texas).
Delta temporarily solved the Giants' defense on consecutive five-play, 70-yard scoring drives -- a 14-yard touchdown pass from Justin DeMello to Robert Hinojosa and a 3-yard touchdown run by James Wheeler -- to slice Sequoias' lead to 21-13.
Sequoias reached Delta territory on three of four second-quarter possessions, but a pair of turnovers allowed the Mustangs to keep it close despite Lamb's 20-yard touchdown pass to Wailoa Manuel (Hawaii), and Lamb's 1-yard scoring run.
Delta turned two Giants turnovers' -- a fumble and an interception -- into field goals of 24 and 25 yards by Habib Alfridi as the Mustangs closed to 27-19 at halftime.
The second half, however, was all Sequoias.
After stopping Delta's first drive of the third quarter, the Giants received a 37-yard pass play from Tate Robards (Oklahoma) to Bryson Allen (Tulare Union) that set up an 11-yard touchdown run by Jaedyn Pineda (Mt. Whitney) for a 34-19 lead.
Lonnie Wessel (Golden West) ended the Mustangs' next possession by forcing and recovering a fumble that led to a 10-yard touchdown pass from Robards to Littlejohn, putting Sequoias up 40-19 with 13:21 remaining in the game.
Benjamin Haywood (Cape Coral, Fla.) and Sam Sholty (Milwaukee, Wis.) came up with interceptions for the Giants on Delta's final two possessions.
The Keene-coordinated defense shut the Mustangs out in three of four quarters.
Michael Gary (Fort Myers, Fla) led the way with five tackles. Julian Espinoza (Tulare Union), Isaak Guzman (Porterville), Wessel and his twin brother Michael Wessel (Golden West) all had four tackles.
Gary, Guzman, Haywood, Nicolas Regalado (Clovis West), Rhett Sarvela (Vancouver), Anthony Vaca (Madera South) and Josh Blalock (Pearland, Texas) all made tackles for losses.
"(Keene is) such an intuitive coach and the kids play so hard for him that we make plays. We run and we hit," Burkett said. "When we talked about building this (coaching) staff, the biggest thing in our fundamental offensive, defensive and kicking philosophy is we want to outplay the opponent, triple a-rated Sequoias' swarm. Attack, excellerate and appropriate finish. Coach Keene laid that down in 2019, and we are only trying to make that better. Kudos to them for a 19-point showing."
Offensively, the Giants rushed for 248 yards behind an offensive line consisting of left tackle T.J. Parker (Macon, Ga.), left guard MatthewSanchez (Tulare Western), center Miguel Madrigal (Porterville), right guard Jeston Vaulet (Sparks, Nevada) and right tackle Jakob Guzman (Corcoran).
"It all starts upfront. Kudos to (offensive line) coach (Darin) Warford and the big heavies. They made a decision to run the ball today, period, point blank, the end. That's a really good sign. That's where we want to be around here."
Playing in the first half, Lamb completed 9 of 14 passes for 156 yards, while Robards, playing in the second half, went 7 of 8 for 119 yards.
Littlejohn led Sequoias' receivers with seven catches for 117 yards. Allen had three catches for 60 yards, while Anthony Valencia (Mt. Whitney) added three catches for 47 yards.
The Giants get another shot against a ranked opponent when they play at No. 21 Shasta (1-1) on Sept. 25. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.
Sequoias' next home game from its campus field is set for 2 p.m. Oct. 2 against No. 20 Diablo Valley.
"We have so much work to do here on where we want to get this thing to go. and every single piece of it is cultural and changing hearts and minds," Burkett said. "And one of the things that will start to really get good around here is when all these guys believe in themselves as much as we believe in them, we'll be really good."