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Top-ranked Del Oro marches past Merced

By: Eric J. Gourley Journal Sports Writer
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LOOMIS — Del Oro High frequents the end zone so often these days that even the largest of leads doesn’t feel like much. Bryce Pratt scored four more touchdowns Friday night, bringing his season total to 14 and leading the Golden Eagles past Merced 38-13 in their penultimate Sierra Foothill League tune-up. “We were up 31-0 at half, but it didn’t really feel like it to us,” said head coach Casey Taylor. “We thought we were up by a couple touchdowns. It really didn’t feel that we had put that much on.” The Eagles (4-0) capitalized on prime field position in the first half. The Del Oro defense forced Merced (0-4) to punt on its first five possessions and intercepted passes on the next two. “We wanted to really jump on them,” said senior Spencer Butterfield, who intercepted the first pass. “We didn’t want to let them think that they can hang with us. We wanted to get on them early, do what we’ve been doing, not change anything up, just play physical football.” Del Oro avenged last season’s 21-14 loss to the Bears, who fell to St. Mary’s in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II title game a year ago and have struggled early this fall. Butterfield caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Max Magleby with 26.3 seconds left in the first half to put the Eagles on top by their largest margin, 31-0. Butterfield caught four passes for 82 yards. Magleby looked confident throwing the ball for the second straight week and finished the night 12 for 18 for 188 yards. “It’s a lot more comfortable after four games,” the junior said. “There’s definitely been a big change in my comfort level, knowing that my line’s blocking for me this year and I have time to make some completions.” The quarterback completed 11-of-12 passes for 192 yards in a 62-12 rout of Franklin a week ago. “He’s playing great, there’s no doubt,” Taylor said. “The last couple weeks he’s shown that he’s a force and he can really throw the ball well. The receivers did a good job getting open. We had some big pass plays that moved the chains. He’s just getting better and better every week. We’re going to really need him to make a championship run.” Pratt scored on runs of 5, 20, 21 and 2 yards and finished with 162 yards on 23 carries. Angelo Pasquale ran four times for 77 yards and kicker Ian Scott nailed a 27-yard field goal for the Eagles, who are averaging more than 44 points per game. Del Oro, No. 1 in the NorCal Division II rankings by CalHiSports.com, hosts Vintage of Napa next Friday before opening SFL against defending champion Granite Bay Oct. 16. “We know we have a huge game to start league, so we really have to get better this week in practice and keep our focus,” Taylor said. “Our goal was just really getting us back to where we felt we belong, and getting people believing in us. You can tell by the crowd, we’ve got a good buzz around town. We’re 4-0, but really we haven’t done much. It doesn’t mean anything right now.”