Tigers roar into semifinals; rematch vs. Escalon High on tap Nov. 23

By David Witte / sports@losbanosenterprise.comNovember 23, 2012 

ROSEMONT -- "How 'bout them Banos boys?"

That was the sentiment of Los Banos High defensive end Dretel Blackwell after Friday Night's 42-14 win over fourth-seeded Capital Christian in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 quarterfinals.

The win set up a semifinal rematch tonight between No. 5 Los Banos (11-1) and No. 8 Escalon (10-2) -- the two teams met in the first game of the season Aug. 24 in a 34-32 Los Banos win.

Both teams have had months to reflect on that first game.

"I think when you look back at the first game of the year, did we really win that game, or were we fortunate enough to have a couple more possessions?" Los Banos coach Dustin Caropreso said. "We were fortunate that we came up with the pass that Deedee stripped. We get the ball back with 6 minutes. That first game was a tossup, and this one will be the same."

That first game was something of a breakout game for Escalon fullback Nathan Chunn, who rushed 27 times for 116 yards. The bruising senior has been a focus of the Cougars' offense, rushing 301 times for 2,014 yards and 31 touchdowns.

For Los Banos, that first game was supposed to be a continuation of James Sams's breakout junior season, but with Escalon selling out to stop him, quarterback Chris Corpuz completed 16 of 18 passes for 251 yards and four TDs. Corpuz has given LB a balanced attack, throwing for 2,028 yards, with 29 TDs to 5 interceptions.

LB's offense struggled in the later weeks of league play, but it all meshed during Friday's win over Capital Christian. Sams exploded for 319 yards and three TDs on 27 carries, while Corpuz found Keith Turner for a touchdown on a streak from 61 yards out.

After Capital Christian tied the game 14-14 in the third quarter, LB kicked into a different gear, separating on a Sams touchdown run and another Corpuz touchdown pass to Turner (Corpuz completed two passes, both touchdowns to Turner).

"We've been kicking in in the second half, we've been clicking a lot more the past couple of weeks," Sams said. "When things are close at half, we know we can step it up in the second half."

LB's defense bent, but didn't break -- Capital's Quinton Kirk ran for 214 yards and both of CC's touchdowns on 29 carries, but while Capital had several sustained drives, too many of them stalled short as LB sniffed out the fly sweep.

"We like to go inside, that sets up our outside, when we couldn't get the inside going, we couldn't get the sweep going," Capital coach Phil Grams said. "We had some good drives, and we were physical with them for three quarters. In the end with 24 guys versus 46 guys, they wore us out."

Added LB defensive end Blackwell, "We planned to stop the fly sweep, basically. Anything to the outside, the basic plan was to contain the fly."

Now the LB defense switches from defending the fly to the smashmouth power run of Escalon, which gave top-seeded Placer fits in Escalon's 27-26 win on Friday. Chunn compiled 156 yards on 26 carries.

A week of upsets turned the SJS Division 4 bracket, which was hailed for its three undefeated teams, upside down. All three of those undefeated teams (Placer, Ripon and Argonaut) are gone, and No. 5 Los Banos is now the highest seed remaining.

And all four remaining (LB, Escalon, Central Catholic and Center) have a national holiday set down in the middle of the practice week.

"It's always an exciting thing. You talk at the beginning of the year about how you want to be playing the last game of the year, and you know that if you do you'll be practicing on Thanksgiving," Caropreso said. "When you're practicing on Thanksgiving, you've accomplished something."

Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached by phone at 388-6565 or by e-mail at sports@losbanosenterprise.com

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