MODESTO — On East Union’s opening drive — highlighted by a fake punt deep in its own territory — it was as if the Lancers could do no wrong Friday night.
A simple dive fake by quarterback Eric Morales turned into a 31-yard scamper to set them up for first-and-goal. Everything, it seemed, was going right.
But in what would become a theme at Chuck Hughes Stadium in Modesto, the Lancers failed to punch the ball in and allowed Downey the opportunity to capitalize on their mistakes en route to a 39-19 season-opening defeat.
“Everything was self-inflicted tonight,” East Union coach Willie Herrera said. “Not to take anything away from Downey, but we did everything we could to take ourselves out of the game. We had a couple of touchdowns get called back and some stupid mistakes that took us out of things.
“I hate to say it, but this was reflective of our week of practice. There are things that we need to work on and straighten out, and a big one is not shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Containing both of Downey’s quarterbacks was another issue.
The combination of junior Bryce Gouker and freshman Beau Green combined for almost 300 yards passing and five touchdowns — three of which were hauled in by senior wide receiver Anderson Grover (134 yards).
Bryce Peterson hauled in five catches for 56 yards, and Ethan Difuntorum snagged three balls, including a short out pass that he took up the East Union sideline for an 80-yard touchdown.
And while the Lancers appeared able to keep momentum going in the first half — putting together a 12-play opening drive followed by a 10-play drive the next possession — the inability to finish proved to be costly.
And things didn’t get any better when Morales was hammered on a long pass that drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Downey defense and was slow to get up. He ended up on the sideline for the second half of the game with ice on his ribs, and the Lancers turned to former quarterback JoJo Espinosa to take the reins.
“He was our quarterback last year, and he stepped right in and played like he never left,” Herrera said of Espinosa. “He did what he could and played his heart out for us tonight.”
Espinoza finished the game 4-of-6 from the pocket for 71 yards, but was unable to find the end zone through the air. He did score a touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 2-yard plunge, and finished the night with 19 carries for 28 yards. Raylen Carter, who hauled in a 30-yard pass from Morales at the end of the second quarter, finished with eight carries for 57 yards.
Downey 6 20 13 0 — 39
East Union 0 6 0 13 — 19
D — Anderson Grover 57 pass from Bryce Gouker (conversion pass failed), 3:42.
D — Grover 28 pass from Beau Green (conversion pass failed), 10:06.
D — Grover 14 pass from Gouker (Paul Roe conversion pass from Gouker), 7:07.
D — Ethan Difuntorum 9 pass from Green (conversion run failed), 1:38.
E — Raylen Carter 30 pass from Eric Morales (conversion pass failed), 0:38.
D — Difuntorum 80 pass from Gouker (PAT attempt blocked), 7:31.
D — Green 2 run (Gouker kick good), 1:50.
E — JoJo Espinoza 2 run (Cameron Torres kick), 6:29.
E —Alex Alexander 33 run (conversion run failed), 3:59.