State’s No. 16 team making conscious effort to mix it up and develop other weapons besides nation’s No. 1-ranked running back. The Panthers revved it up for 46 points in the first half and went on to beat Lincoln of Stockton on Friday.
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Sure, Najee Harris had an 89-yard touchdown run, a 35-yard touchdown reception and an interception while playing defense, but preseason state-ranked No. 16 Antioch High’s 67-38 win over Lincoln of Stockton on Friday was more about the team.
Questions answered included whether sophomore QB Willem Karnthong could be effective throwing the ball, whether other dangerous offensive options could be developed and whether the defense could stop a potent opponent.
Consider the answers positive for No. 1 and No. 2, but not resolved for No. 3.
“I’m happy with the win and putting 67 points on the board and we kind of showed what we could do in the passing game,” said Panthers’ head coach John Lucido, whose team went 11-1 last season with its only loss coming to Foothill of Pleasanton 55-54 in the CIF North Coast Section semifinals. “But I was disappointed with some of the breakdowns and missed blocks. When we start (Bay Valley Athletic League), we can’t have that.”
Harris, who was the Mr. Football State Player of the Year as a junior and committed to Alabama, surprised some by being on the field for roughly half the defensive snaps in the first half. When he came up with his interception, it stopped Lincoln when it was down 38-16 and attempting to get back in the game. One play into Antioch’s next ensuing series, he broke loose down the sidelines for the 89-yard touchdown and after a two-point conversion it was 46-16.
Unofficially, Harris ended with 11 carries for 221 yards and three TDs rushing. His other scores came on bursts of 2 and 56 yards and were the Panthers’ first two scores of the night. He later caught a 35-yard scoring pass from Karnthong.
“Yes, we were planning to throw it and I thought we did pretty well,” said Karnthong, who was the JV quarterback last season and was making his first varsity start. “We’re planning to keep preparing to get ready for De La Salle (which Antioch plays in its fourth game). We just have to keep working hard.”
Karnthong hit on two other scoring passes, covering 54 and 25 yards, to junior Isaiah Dunn, one of Northern California’s top-ranked players from the Class of 2018 as a defensive back but who’s going to be targeted as a wideout this year as well.
“I didn’t play much wide receiver last year and am looking forward to it,” Dunn said. “Our biggest thing is to focus. We missed some assignments in this game.”
Despite some of those hiccups, the Panthers were within striking distance as the clock was winding down of breaking their all-time single-game school scoring record of 70 that was set in 2012 in a 70-20 win vs. Dougherty Valley of San Ramon.
When Cal-Hi Sports compiled the school’s all-time football scores archive over the summer, it was confirmed that the Dougherty Valley score was the record. Antioch’s first reported score is from 1908 when it was known as Riverview High School.
“That would have been great (to break the record),” Lucido said. “But we couldn’t leave guys in to do it.”
Lincoln, making its debut under new head coach Anthony Martinez, certainly tested Antioch’s defense with its new Air Raid-style offense.
The Trojans, ranked No. 2 by the Stockton Record in its coverage area (behind state No. 13 St. Mary’s), are coming off of a 6-5 season. They had attempts to cut their deficit to 24-16 in the first quarter and to 38-22 in the second but turned the ball over both times.
Senior quarterback Aaron Thomas threw a 35-yard TD pass to Demond Short, scored on a one-yard run and threw a 52-yard TD pass to sophomore Merle Bass. Miquan Maxey also had a strong showing for Lincoln, catching passes coming across the middle and returning a kickoff 68 yards for a score.
If Antioch wants to reach more of an elite level, and it’s obvious which team in the Bay Area that means competing with (De La Salle), being more dominant on defense is going to be the key.
Offensively, other than Harris, Lucido was most happy about junior running back Dalaan Green, who scored on a 56-yard run in the second half. The team’s usual No. 2 running back behind Najee Harris, Omari Harris (no relation), was injured and didn’t play.
Issac Freytes (WR/DB), Antione Tanner (WR/DB), Jamir Wilson (WR/DB) and Jaylan Heard (RB/DB) also all looked like they could be utilized as offensive weapons as the Antioch season continues to unfold.