With first place in the WAC on the line, the Los Banos Tiger varsity football team (7-2 overall, 6-0 WAC) traveled to Lathrop on Friday, Oct. 21, to battle the Spartans (5-4 overall, 4-2 WAC).

A Tiger victory would keep Los Banos undefeated and in first place in the WAC and assure them of no less than a tie for the conference championship.

Coach Dustin Caropreso told the Express, “We knew that this was going to be a very tough battle, Lathrop is big and very physical, and a share of the lead in the conference was at stake, and a battle it was right down to the last few minutes of the game.  I’m really proud of our offensive line (Sal Garcia, Jose Esquivel, Julian Cortez, Jackson Silva, and Jett Lindeman) for doing a great job against a very big and talented defensive front like Lathrop had.”

Following a defensive stop by the Tigers, a Spartan punt put the Tigers deep in their own territory at the ten-yard line.

Los Banos marched the entire field, covering 90 yards in just six plays. The big play came on a 45-yard pass from quarterback David Herrera (9 of 12 passing, 127 yards, 2TDs) to Kayson Welch (6 catches, 113 yards, 2 TDs).

Herrera finished the drive on a one-yard dive into the endzone when Armani Molina kicked the PAT. Los Banos opened a 7-0 first-quarter lead.

Roman Giodado rambled 40 yards for a Spartan score, and Anthony Cuellar added the PAT kick to tie the score 7-7.

Los Banos came right back on their second possession covering 57 yards in 10 plays, with Herrera connecting with Welch on a beautiful over-the-shoulder catch from nine yards out.  Molina added the PAT kick for a 14-7 Tiger advantage.

Lathrop tied the score at 14-14 just before halftime when Teagen Schueler scored on a one-yard run, and Cuellar added the PAT kick.

Isaiah Medina set up the Tiger’s third touchdown when he intercepted a Spartan pass and, with the aid of the crushing block from George Garcia, returned the pick to the Lathrop 30-yard line. Mark Carriero covered the 30 yards in three plays, the last a 12-yard jolt around the left end for the go-ahead touchdown. Molina added his third PAT, and Los Banos was back in front 21-14. 

Jeremiah Green tied the score at 21-21 when he scored a Spartan touchdown from 2 yards out.

The Tigers would possess the ball one final time in the fourth quarter, and with 4:35 remaining in the game Herrera connected with Welch for their second scoring pass from 23 yards out. Molina’s PAT gave Los Banos back the lead at 28-21.

Now it was up to the Tiger defense to secure the victory for Los Banos. The Spartans began their drive from their 39-yard line and moved the ball down the field to the Los Banos 18-yard line. It came down to a fourth-down play with 2:25 left in the game. Cole Ramos made the play of the game for the Tigers when he sacked the Spartan halfback on an option pass play, turning the ball over to Los Banos. The Tigers ran out the clock, claiming their sixth consecutive WAC victory, and remaining alone in first place.

Raymond Fernandez paced the Tiger defense with 13 tackles, Jett Lindeman with 11 stops, Joel Alvarenga, George Garcia, and Cole Ramos added eight tackles, and Isaiah Medina had that all-important pass interception for Los Banos.

Their victory over Lathrop sets up the crosstown matchup with the Pacheco Panthers (6-3 overall, 5-1 WAC) on Friday, Oct 29, with the WAC championship up for grabs. A Tiger victory assures Los Banos the outright conference title. A Pacheco win and the two Los Banos teams will share the conference title and be co-champions.

Michael Martin