Del Oro Football Touchdown Specialist Johnny Guzman Has The Golden Eagles Speeding Into The Sac-Joaquin Section Playoffs •
Vin Diesel wants a 10-second car, but Del Oro football coach Jeff Walters only asks for a 12-second touchdown.
Walters, whose team is bound for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs after a 9-1 start to the 2018 campaign, has championed a stout defense and explosive offense this year.
But lots of programs excel on either side of the ball. Not every team is truly special on special teams.
The Golden Eagles have 10 touchdowns on punt returns, kick returns and blocked kicks. Five of those scores are credited to senior sensation Johnny Guzman, Del Oro’s three-way superstar.
Guzman exploded through his wedge return for touchdowns of 99 and 97 yards during Del Oro’s 56-21 win over Oak Ridge-El Dorado Hills Oct. 5. By week No. 9, he managed 513 yards on nine kick returns (a 57-yard average), and another seven punt returns for 187 yards (26.7).
“I’m always hyped when the ball comes my way on kick returns,” Guzman said. “Instinct takes over. I just snap into action and know what to do.”
Even with cuts and hesitation to jettison would-be tacklers, both of his kick returns against Oak Ridge lasted exactly 12 seconds.
You might call that track speed.
Guzman (also a receiver, safety, and punter) shines for the Del Oro track-and-field team. In fact, Guzman, running back Sheldon Conde (108 carries, 988 yards, 16 touchdowns by week No. 9) and first-year receiver Ryan Mulholland (one touchdown) are three members of the fastest 4×100 meter relay team in Del Oro school history. The baton boys set that mark (42.47 seconds) at the SJS Div. I Championships last year and qualified for the SJS Masters.
“We grew a lot closer during track,” Guzman said. “That really brought us all together.”
That tight bond is roster-deep, and aided by Walters’ unique additions to the Del Oro football routine over his first two seasons. In past years, the squad would listen to motivational speeches from coaches and guest speakers. In 2018, the program enjoys team activities (they went bowling during the Sierra Foothill League campaign), bonds during weekly team dinners and practices advanced communication.
“Coach will pass the football around and ask you to explain what you think about a particular topic, like brotherhood, hard work, community,”
Guzman said. “It’s a chance for us to talk to our teammates and understand how some people feel about the team.”
The gridiron tutelage has also paid off. Assistant coach Bill Sherman has directed a magic show on special teams and as of week No. 9, Del Oro had outscored opponents by a 43-14 average. The Golden Eagles earned early wins over playoff contenders Amador Valley-Pleasanton (7-2), Oak Grove-San Jose (5-3) and posted their first win over Oak Ridge since 2014.
“There have been some naysayers who have questioned whether we could score points, wondering if we would be able to put up points against a great opponent,” Walters said. “We have been scoring a lot of points this year.”
Del Oro was slowed in a 22-21 win over Rocklin Oct. 12 and a 20-13 defeat of Grant-Sacramento Oct. 19, but cruising against elite SFL programs isn’t easy. SFL squads have won 37 section titles in the last 30 years (Div. I-III), including 12 in the last seven seasons. It’s a conference so good, the SJS just surrendered to make it stronger, removing Woodcreek-Roseville and Nevada Union-Grass Valley and adding Grant and Whitney-Rocklin this year. State powers Folsom and Oak Ridge joined back in 2014. Granite Bay, Rocklin and Del Oro are the longtime members.
SFL wins require big moments. Del Oro football has plenty of those.
It all starts with the kickoff, and the Golden Eagles don’t give opposing teams a lot of options.
To avoid Guzman, kickers have to boot the ball to the right side of the field, into the arms of another playmaker — Dawson Hurst. The younger brother of former University of Washington running back Logan Hurst and current Cal Poly defensive back Mason Hurst. Dawson Hurst was featured in the 2018 SportStars Football Preview cover feature this fall, alongside other top flight SJS defensive backs.
Dawson and Guzman play about every snap for Del Oro.
Hurst has entertained offers from Cal Poly, UC Davis and Stetson University. Guzman (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) has also received an offer from Stetson and has garnered interest from Wyoming. Guzman also has interest in both Boise State and Eastern Washington.
The Roseville native is angling toward a collegiate career that bolsters his strong focus on academics.
“I just have to keep working hard, knowing my time will come sooner or later,” Guzman said. “I am not worried about letters (of intent) or rankings.
“Just go out there and do what I do.”
Twelve seconds at a time.