DINUBA — Hanford’s football season came to an end with a 41-14 loss against Dinuba in the CIF Central Section Division II quarterfinals at Claud Hebert Field on Friday.
Although sporting a 4-0 road record heading into the contest, the 5-seed Bullpups struggled to gain any momentum before falling behind early and never recovering. They were shut out through the first three quarters and never led.
“We just came out soft we didn’t come out to play,” Hanford running back Luttrell Young said. “Our offense wasn’t moving the ball. Our defense wasn’t stopping it.”
It was a positive start with Hanford quarterback Juaron Watts-brown finding receiver Daylon Davis for a 25-yard completion into Dinuba territory.
But on third-and-11 receiver Carson Verhoeven couldn’t hold on to a pass, which would have given them the first down and the Bullpups had to punt. It was their first of four punts in the first half.
Fourth-seeded Dinuba controlled the clock and methodically moved 74 yards down the field before capping the drive off with a one-yard touchdown run. They scored again less than two minutes later on a similar four-yard run to lead 14-0 after the first quarter.
The Bullpups couldn’t find any rhythm on offense and ended the first half with three consecutive three-and-outs. The Emperors took advantage and added two more scores, including a highlight 31-yard touchdown catch and run, to lead 28-0 at halftime.
“[Dinuba] executed better than us, made plays when they had to and time of possession was a big thing in the first half,” Hanford coach Josh Young said. “We couldn’t sustain some drives on offense, defense was out there quite a bit and when that happens they’re going to put some points on the board. Hats off to them they’re a good football team.”
The run game, which has carried the majority of the load on offense this season, was nonexistent. Dinuba’s linebackers got to the edge and their linemen stuffed the gaps rendering Luttrell Young and Travone Houston incapable of picking up any yardage.
“They’re really good up front,” Josh Young said. “Their interior is seven guys who played really well. We just couldn’t get really any momentum and some rhythm going on offense early in the game.”
The Emperors extended their lead in the third and led 41-0 entering the fourth quarter. The Bullpups managed to score on a 9-yard slant from Davis for a touchdown and Luttrell Young took a pass 74 yards to the end zone.
“We shot ourselves in the foot,” Verhoeven said. “We do that every first half. We dug ourselves too much in a hole. At halftime we were trying to get up and we were, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out our way and tonight was one of those nights.”
The Bullpups still have plenty to celebrate after the season they had. After just two wins the previous year, Hanford finished 8-4 overall and a perfect 5-0 as the West Yosemite League champions. Earlier in the week, Hanford was also named CIF Central Section Academic champions after beating out 37 other football teams with an overall GPA of 3.56. They also defeated 12-seed Sunnyside in the opening round 40-21.
“The biggest thing is there’s a lot of great memories for this season,” Josh Young said. “The kids really made a decision to change things in the middle of the season and a lot of that was led by our seniors. My hats off to them, I love those guys and we were able to turn around mid-season and make the run that we did and accomplish the things that we did do.”