The fireworks that lit up the sky Friday night, Sept. 22, following Dana Hills High’s homecoming ceremony perfectly reflected the first-half explosion of points that propelled the Dolphins to a 47-14 home win over Canyon.
Dana Hills (4-2) scored 33 in the first two quarters, led by sophomore running back Radley Geiss, who found the end zone three times, and senior receiver Noah Kucera, who scored twice.
Geiss finished with 173 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries, and Kucera compiled 144 yards and three touchdowns on 14 offensive touches.
The Dolphins have the next week off before welcoming Irvine into town on Oct. 6, which marks the start of Pacific Coast League play and Dana Hills High’s Honor the Valor night.
Photos: Alan Gibby
Head coach Tony Henney said the bye week was much-needed for his team’s mental and physical recovery, especially after a physical performance Friday that the Dolphins staff had challenged their players to execute.
“I just didn’t feel the last couple of weeks that we’ve been playing very physically, and I thought we played really physical tonight,” he said. “I’m super proud of them.”
Dana Hills’ performance on both sides of the line helped it command control by the end of the first quarter, which it didn’t relinquish for the rest of the contest.
An interception thrown by Dolphin quarterback Jace Lowe started a Canyon drive that ended in a 3-yard Noah Eckenrode touchdown run, putting the Comanches on the board first.
A few possessions later, Dana Hills took advantage of a short field off a shanked punt, with Geiss cashing in on a 7-yard touchdown run. The Dolphins would score 21 unanswered points.
Canyon (1-4) reached the end zone again with just under four minutes before halftime, as quarterback Corin Rynders found DJ Knupp alone for a six-yard play to cut the Dolphins’ lead to 21-14.
Dana Hills responded decisively, scoring on the ensuing drive with a 31-yard run by the elusive Kucera. The senior followed that up by intercepting Rynders on Canyon’s next possession, weaving through players and breaking tackles, before coasting into the end zone on a 66-yard interception return score.
“He’s just the best,” Henney said of Kucera, adding that his staff can never get the athlete enough touches.
“We threw him screens, threw him deep routes, (he ran with) the ball; we’re doing whatever we can to get him the ball,” he continued. “Obviously he’s great on the (kickoff return) game and on the interception, and he’s just fun to watch.”
Taking the bulk of the running back carries in the second half, Kucera finished the Dolphins’ opening drive of the third quarter with a 6-yard rushing touchdown, icing the game at 40-14.
He also ran seven times for 57 yards on another drive, accounting for all the yards on that possession as he scored for the final time with 10:07 left in the fourth quarter.
The Dolphin defense also shined. Canyon only managed 50 rushing yards on 27 attempts and Rynders struggled mightily.
He completed only 14 of 34 attempts for 166 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions.
Stopping the Comanches’ rushing attack was crucial, according to Henney.
“We’ve given up a ton of rushing yards the last two weeks and the defense challenged themselves to get it done tonight,” he said. “I think it got (Canyon) off maybe what their early plan was, which was probably to come run the ball on us.”
Photos: Alan Gibby