It may not qualify as the quantum leap reserved for postseason play, but in the eyes of The Dunham School’s second-year football coach Guy Mistretta it was a significant step.
With Class 1A state power Vermilion Catholic of Abbeville providing Friday’s opposition, Mistretta wanted a barometer of not only where his program stood heading into district play but also on a statewide level.
Dunham overcame an early two-touchdown deficit and scored 14 unanswered second-half points to register a 21-20 victory over Vermilion Catholic, a state semifinalist a year ago and current No. 2 ranked team in Class 1A.
“All week long we talked about if we were going to take the program to the next level, it started with this game,” Mistretta said. “It depended on how we played and competed, and I thought we did an excellent job. They’ve got a tremendous program, but that was our mantra all week.”
Dunham (3-2) won for the second straight week and also atoned for a 53-20 loss to Vermilion Catholic last season. Moreover, the Tigers stopped an 18-game regular-season win streak for the Eagles (4-1) dating to Oct. 8, 2010.
“I thought we did a good job in the first half,” VCHS coach Russell Kuhns said. “Then, in the second half we didn’t do so well. They’ve got a good team, and we came up short.”
Dunham took the lead for good with 7:57 to play when Harrison Domingue barreled in from five yards out. The Tigers remained aggressive with quarterback Nick Nezami finding Grayson Domingue for the go-ahead two-point conversion.
The catalyst, though, came on the second series of the third quarter when Grayson Domingue turned in a short post pattern into a 70-yard scoring play from Nezami.
“Our confidence was sky-high after that touchdown,” Mistretta said.
Nezami completed 13 of 19 passes for 158 yards, with Grayson Domingue leading the way with four catches for 111 yards and a TD. Harrison Domingue totaled 209 all-purpose yards, highlighted by his 21-carry, 111-yard rushing output.
Dunham’s defense simply stifled a high-powered VCHS’ offense came in averaging 43 points and rolled up 20 points and 300 yards in the first half.
The Tigers limited the Eagles to 55 yards on 35 plays and held the state’s third-leading rusher — Jacoby Davis — to 55 yards on eight carries in the second half. Davis, who carried 22 times for 243 yards and two TDs, left the game with 10 minutes to play with a twisted knee and didn’t return.
During VCHS’ last six offensive possessions the Eagles garnered five first downs, punted three times, turned the ball over twice on downs, and suffered a turnover.
“We weren’t being aggressive enough on Davis,” Mistretta said. “You could see on film that he breaks tackles and makes a lot of big plays.”
Davis, who went over the 1,000-yard mark in the first half, provided VCHS with a 20-7 halftime lead on touchdown runs of 51 and 8 yards, respectively, in the first quarter.
Dunham cut into’s VC’s early lead when cornerback Abraham Wallace provided the first big play for his team with an interception and 18-yard return to the Eagles’ 41. Harrison Domingue went 24 yards on first down and a personal foul penalty moved the ball to the 9 where Austin Henriken scored on first-and-goal and Julian Laprairie added the extra point.
“This gives us a lot of confidence going into district,” said Mistretta, whose team will host Capitol.