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Dana Hills football bounced back in a big way in a rare afternoon affair on Thursday, Sept. 14, at Woodbridge High in Irvine.
Senior Noah Kucera torched Woodbridge with 254 yards receiving and two touchdowns on 12 catches, and sophomore quarterback Jace Lowe continued his growth with four touchdown passes and 374 yards in the air, as Dana Hills pulled away from Woodbridge, 32-21.
Dana Hills (3-2) returns home to host Canyon (1-3) for Homecoming next Friday, Sept. 22. Canyon lost at Fountain Valley, 48-10, on Thursday.
The Dolphins didn’t necessarily come out with the vigor that a team coming off a huge loss the previous week would have on Thursday afternoon.
Woodbridge hosted its first-ever on-campus varsity football game, as the Warriors moved their game from Friday night due to observance of Rosh Hashanah. Normally, Woodbridge plays its home games at University High School, but University and the other Irvine District schools with stadiums also moved their games to Thursday night. So, the Warriors instead opted for a 4 p.m. kickoff at its recently renovated field.
Neither team seemed to have its best focus with a combined 10 turnovers–five for each team. Dana Hills’ turnovers in the second half allowed Woodbridge to inch closer, but the Dolphins stayed on top.
“Kind of a weird atmosphere playing an afternoon varsity game, but we had spurts where we played really well,” Dana Hills coach Tony Henney told the Orange County Register. “We had a chance to put them away, but we gave them life. Give the Woodbridge kids credit for taking advantage of that.”
Woodbridge actually scored on the opening drive of the game and attempted to take the air out of Dana Hills by running the ball effectively and controlling the clock.
However, the Dolphins and Kucera ultimately showcased their skill to take the lead and pull away from the Warriors.
Just two plays and 33 seconds after Woodbridge took the early lead, Dana Hills scored on a 48-yard catch-and-run from Lowe to Kucera. The Dolphins stayed behind with a missed extra point but not for long.
Dana Hills turned around a Woodbridge scoring opportunity with a forced fumble by Charlie Eckl and a recovery at the Dolphins’ 19-yard line by Kucera. Two minutes later, Lowe hit Eckl in stride down the right sideline, and Eckl bowled over a Warriors defender on his way to a 46-yard touchdown and the Dana Hills lead, 12-7.
Eckl caught three passes for 74 yards and a score. Eckl also recovered a fumble in the second half.
Late in the first half, Lowe found Kucera streaking up the right side, and the senior receiver coasted by the rest of the Woodbridge defense for a 48-yard touchdown and a two-score lead, 19-7.
Dana Hills denied Woodbridge points before halftime with an interception in the endzone by Dominic Barto. The senior linebacker led the game in tackles with 14.
In the third quarter, Radley Geiss ran in a touchdown for Dana Hills, and Nikolis Grguric caught a touchdown for a 32-7 Dana Hills lead. Woodbridge scored twice in the fourth quarter, but the Dolphins held on for the win.