Following their first round bye in the Sac-Joaquin Section V football playoffs, the Los Banos Tigers varsity football squad returned to Loftin Stadium Fri., Nov. 10 and hosted the Center High School Cougars, and came away with a decisive 30-7 victory.

With their win, the Tigers will now travel to Lincoln to play the number one seed, Twelve Bridges this Friday night Nov. 17. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

The Los Banos defense was stellar all game long in this contest, limiting the Cougars to just 161 yards of offense.

Adan Salas (7 tackles) led the way for the Tigers on defense, followed by Cole Ramos (6 tackles), Raul Diaz (5 tackles), Lorenzo Chavez (5 tackles), Jett Lindeman (4 tackles, QB sack), Daniel Deffee (4 tackles, QB sack) and the defensive play of the game, a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown by Evan Rebosa.

While the Tiger defense was halting the Cougar offense, the Los Banos offense was scoring on their first three possessions.

On their first drive, the Tigers marched 65 yards in seven plays with David Herrera (9/15 passing, 179 yards, TD) connected with Yahir Zuniga (6 catches, 120 yards, TD) on a 15 yard scoring strike, giving Los Banos a 6-0 lead. Abel Carrillo added the conversion kick for a 7-0 Tiger advantage.

Following a Cougar punt and nice return by Kolton Kanemoto, the Tigers marched 55 yards in 11 plays to score their second touchdown. 

Joel Alvarenga (18 carries, 55 yards) and Herrera (15 carries, 69 yards, 2 TD’s) accounted for most of the yardage, resulting with Herrera following his center Sam Sanchez into the end zone from two yards out for the score. Carrillo added the conversion and Los Banos led by the score of 14-0.

Following the kickoff, the Tigers made it 21-0 on the very first Cougar play, when Rebosa stepped in front of his Cougar receiver and intercepted the pass, returning it 41 yards for a “pick-six” and a third Los Banos touchdown.

On the next Cougar possession, Deffee and Lindeman combined to sack the Cougar quarterback on a fourth down play to turn the ball back over to the Tiger offense at the Los Banos 28 yard line.

The Tigers moved the ball deep into Cougar territory with Herrera completing two passes to Caleb Robertson (2 catches, 50 yards) accounting for most of the yardage. However, the drive stalled at the Center four yard line, so coach Dustin Caropreso sent in his placekicker, Carrillo, who nailed a 21-yard field goal to give Los Banos a commanding lead of 24-0.

On their first possession in the fourth quarter, the Tigers crossed the goal line for the fourth time, marching 56 yards in nine plays, with Herrera powering into the end zone from six yards out to up the Los Banos lead to 30-0.

With nine minutes remaining in the game Coach Caropreso was able to rest most of his starting players, and it allowed him to have some reserves finish out the game. 

Ethan Briseno replaced Herrera at quarterback, and Aaron Briseno, Luke Reyna, Jared van Loben Sels and Byron Zuniga all saw action in the final minutes of the game.

The Cougars scored a meaningless touchdown with less than two minutes to go in the game to make the final score read 30-7.

After the game, Tiger Head Coach Caropreso told his team, “Nobody believed we could come this far, but we did, because you all worked your tails off and played your hearts out. Next week we have a chance to prove all the doubters wrong, so let’s get back to work on Monday, and give them our best”.

Michael Gill