SportStars Magazine

Inderkum Football: Tigers Dedicate Season To Hobbled Teammate

Inderkum football

WINNING FOR JAVI: Season-Ending Ankle Injury To Star Receiver Javi Daniels Leads Inderkum To Inspired Road Victory Over Del Oro •

The opening kickoff of the 2019 campaign for the Inderkum-Sacramento football team brought mixed emotions of giddy anticipation, as well as a tremendous amount of pain.

With a roster chock full of talented, experienced players, Inderkum fans believed this was their year, their chance for a section title. Preseason excitement oozed from every orifice of the Tigers’ program. But one kickoff into the season and senior standout Javi Daniels’ year came to an end. 

Fielding the kick, the two-way star planted to turn up field and after a short gain, he was tackled awkwardly. An Elk Grove defender wrestled him to the ground and Daniels’ ankle was the casualty. 

“Javi is going to have to have surgery and he was our top receiver and returner,” Inderkum coach Terry Stark said. “He broke his ankle, and we found out today (Friday 8/31) that he is done for the year.”

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Although the Tigers’ managed a two-point win against the Herd in that Week Zero contest, that one devastating play brought with it a new-found motivation for the program. 

Inderkum has since dedicated this season to its hobbled receiver — promising to fight hard on every down for him. Players made that promise evident before the team faced Del Oro-Loomis in their second game. They passed around a white, 28-inch poster board which soon had about 50 signatures surrounding two characters: #3.

“The kids love Javi,” Stark said. “They’re all really close friends, and the coaches love him, too. He’s a special part of our program. You just feel for the guy — he got one play in his senior year, and that was it.”

Javi Daniels

Javi Daniels, who broke his ankle on the first kickoff of the season, sits on the Inderkum sideline next to the #3 sign his teammates made for him. (David Gershon photos)

That sign was on prominent display as the Tigers hit the field to take on the Golden Eagles. And that led to some inspired effort. 

Inderkum jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first half before a third-quarter push from Del Oro made it just a one-score game. But the Tigers’ high-powered run game was too much for the Eagles to handle as Inderkum scored 20 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to win, 37-10. 

“It’s a huge win in a preseason game. Beating them is special because I’ve never done it,” Stark said. “Our guys have been wanting to beat them — they’ve been a thorn in our hide in the playoffs and they’ve got a great program.”

In all, the Tigers’ litany of backs amassed 437 yards on 44 rushing attempts against the Eagles. Seniors Dino Watson and Josiah Tyes each finished with 150 yards or more, plus a pair of scores each.

“We noticed that we had more speed on the edges (than them) and we had good angles,” Stark said. “And once we busted a couple of them, we just kept coming with them and they worked. Especially Dino — he’s so quick.”

Watson had the game’s first score on a 26-yard end-around in the first quarter. The senior wingback optimized the misdirection play as he quickly swerved to the sideline and found daylight. It was a play that Inderkum came back to over and over again because Del Oro couldn’t consistently stop it. 

By halftime, the Eagles trailed 17-0. Their offense had run just 20 plays and twice turned the ball over on downs. 

Inderkum, football, Aaron Espero

Senior all-purpose back Aaron Espero makes a Del Oro defender miss in open field.

“Obviously, we knew it was going to be a physical game, and you can’t look past a team like Inderkum,” Del Oro coach Jeff Walters said afterward. “I think a lot of people put a lot of stock in past performances. But the reality is that every year is a different game, and they brought it. They were excited. They were ready to play and made a few more plays than us.”

Despite a three-score deficit, Del Oro managed to close the gap with a strong third quarter and capitalized on back-to-back fumbled snaps by the Tigers’ punt team. 

After the first turnover, the home squad added a 38-yard field goal before punching in a one-yard touchdown after the second fumble. Workhorse back Sheldon Conde, who finished with 63 yards on 18 carries, dove over the goal line to make it 17-10.

With the momentum, Del Oro’s defense came up with a big, fourth-down stop on Inderkum’s next drive. They gave the ball back to the Eagles’ offense only to see them squander it away. 

Inderkum’s Sean Switzer intercepted Eagles’ quarterback Kal Lunders one play after the Tigers had turned it over on downs. 

“I saw the tight end shuffle out. When I came forward I saw the running back try and block me,” Switzer explained. “Then I saw the quarterback, saw his eyes, and I just tipped it to myself and caught it.”

That play was the turning point. The defense never let Del Oro get past the 50-yard-line again. 

“To be able to fight through that, and being backed up the whole third quarter and them coming back – that’s the most impressive thing to me,” Stark said. “Because, in the past, (Del Oro) would have found a way to win. Everyone’s seen them win games like that forever. They knew it was coming, but our guys hung in there and stopped them.

“Coach [Bert] Salinas had a great gameplan,” Stark added. “He’s a hell of a coach – he’s been a head coach for several years and we brought him over a few years ago, running our defense and he does a great job.”

Switzer also had the game-saving play in the win over Elk Grove. 

With time running out and the Tigers’ defense on the field clinging to a two-point lead, the senior linebacker fell on a fumble inside Inderkum’s red zone with nine seconds on the clock. If not for that fumble, Elk Grove could have kicked a field goal and won. Instead, Switzer saved the night. 

A week later, it was Watson who stepped into the limelight. 

The speedy back amassed a team-high 182 yards rushing on 13 carries – good for a whopping 14 yards-per-carry average. He also had a 62-yard TD called back due to a holding penalty. 

“Those holes were big,” Watson said. “I was loving it. I appreciate my linemen for that.”

Josiah Tyes, Inderkum football

Josiah Tyes takes a hand off and looks for daylight. Tyes scored a pair of TDs against Del Oro.

Tyes and fellow senior Willie Hardy Jr. added 59- and 47-yard touchdowns in the fourth quarter to seal the big win for Inderkum. The Tigers improved to 2-0 this season despite losing three running backs to serious injuries.

“We lost one to surgery, another to an ankle and one to a hip,” Stark pointed out. “You can’t replace that. In our offense, you need the depth. And they were starters and key backups.”

Stark is hoping those injuries will continue to inspire the group. He’s also hoping for more performances like Friday night’s breakout against Del Oro. 

“They’ll keep playing for Javi,” he added. “You can count on that.”

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