Tigers rebound from two straight losses, beat Sanger 21-19 in thriller; Redwood up next

By Ed Martin, Editor
Cedric Vasquez makes a tackle as Lemoore's defense played Sanger tough.
Cedric Vasquez makes a tackle as Lemoore's defense played Sanger tough.
Photo by Bill Burris, Photography for Kings County

Some famous person said many years ago that defense wins football games, and it wasn’t Donald Trump. Well, he was right. Defense does win games and nowhere was that adage on display more appropriately than in Tiger Stadium Friday night, where Lemoore’s varsity football team, faced with losing its third game in a row to a cross-valley foe, rebounded with the kind of defense that makes defensive coordinators proud.

Tiger Coach Shannon Pulliam needs to give his defensive coordinator a raise after his team put together a tenacious defense to hold on and beat Sanger 21-19. The win improved Lemoore’s season mark to 2-2 as they move into West Yosemite League play this Friday with a game against Redwood in Tiger Stadium at 7:30 pm.

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Sanger came into Friday night’s game sporting a 3-0 record.

Lemoore, after taking a 21-13 lead on a Josh Howeth 9-yard pass to Allen Perryman at the 7:54 mark of the final quarter, watched as Sanger returned the favor and march down the field culminating in a 1-yard touchdown from Apache workhorse Isaiah Hilliard.

Lemoore's Reggie Davis on his way to a Tiger touchdown.
Lemoore's Reggie Davis on his way to a Tiger touchdown.
Photo by Bill Burris, Photography for Kings County

It wasn’t easy for Sanger as Lemoore’s linebackers and front line continually harassed Apache quarterback Michael Castillo. Lemoore’s Christian Martinez dropped Castillo for a loss on the Tigers 27-yard-line before linebacker Angel Solis sacked the Apache quarterback to knock Sanger back to the 34.

On fourth down Castillo found a streaking Aaron Mosby who found his way to a first down at the Tiger 7-yard line. From there Hilliard ran it in to cut the Tiger lead to 21-19. A 2-point conversion would tie the game.

The highlight of the night was again provided by the Lemoore defensive unit as Sanger, needing to go for two with just a little over two minutes left in the game, had Andrew Azua attempt to break free around the right end and score, but waiting for him was a wall of Tigers that promptly shut the door on Sanger’s hopes of tying the game.

On the ensuing kickoff, Sanger naturally went for the onside kick and remarkably recovered at the Tiger 49. Lemoore’s defense rose to the occasion one more time, stuffing Hilliard for no gain on first down, forcing an incompletion to set up a fourth down for the Apaches, and then, with a little over a minute left in the game, Lemoore’s front line keyed on Apache quarterback Castillo and sacked him, spoiling Sanger’s comeback hopes.

Lemoore halfback Reggie Davis added insult to injury when on the Tigers first play following the sack, the talented speedster broke loose for a 35-yard run.

“We had a great week of practice which helped,” said Pulliam. “Our practices were intense all week long and it really showed when things started getting tough tonight. What we did this last week was huge. And they (defense) came up with big plays. There were two, 2-point conversion stops, one of them a kid broke up the play and probably broke his ankle, Josh Garza. The defense just stepped up and made plays.”

Lemoore came out swinging in the first half, taking the opening kickoff from their own 27-yard line. Using a combination of pin-point passing from quarterback Josh Howeth to Perryman and Davis, the Tigers moved the ball to the Sanger 33 on a 27-yard pass play.

Howeth connected with Perryman again for a first down on the 20. Davis took it to the 15 with some hard running followed by a Brent Vargas burst to give Lemoore a first and goal at the 9-yard line. Davis finally scored at the 9:18 mark from five yards out. Josh Roa’s extra point split the uprights for a Lemoore 7-0 lead.

The Tigers were driving again on their second possession after stopping the Apaches cold. Camped at the Sanger 22 and his eyes set on another touchdown, Howeth was picked off in the end zone by Sanger’s Chris Soria.

Lemoore took advantage of a bad Sanger snap and an alert Jon-michael Yost pounced on the ball for another Tiger touchdown. Roa’s extra point gave the Tigers a 14-0 lead with just 2:26 left in the first half.

Unfortunately for Lemoore, Sanger quickly went to work, intent on putting points on the board before the half. With just 16 seconds left and having forced his way to the Tiger 37, Sanger quarterback Michael Castillo found a streaking Aaron Mosby in the end zone who outstretch two Tiger defenders to haul in the pass for a touchdown to cut the gap to 1-7 headed into halftime.

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