Pacheco High had a 10-0 lead heading into the fourth quarter of Friday's game against Selma, and it took all the Panthers had to hold on for the 16-13 victory.
"They pretty much dominated the whole second half," Pacheco coach David Snapp said. "We touched the ball once in the third quarter and twice in the fourth quarter."
Selma scored twice in the fourth to take a 13-10 lead, and Pacheco's next drive stalled.
"They looked at me like I was crazy when I called the punt team," Snapp said. "Then (Frank) Ginda boomed it and pinned them back, and the defense stiffened."
An Adam Perez punt return gave Pacheco the ball at the 46-yard line, and quarterback Juwan Epperson hit Maurice Harden on a screen for the winning touchdown.
Now Pacheco faces an Escalon team coming off a 20-3 loss to Los Banos in its opener.
"They're going to be licking their wounds. I watched the film, and they played good enough to win, they just had a couple of breaks go against them," Snapp said. "They don't lose twice in a row often, but our guys love a challenge. We challenge ourselves every day in practice, and we're looking forward to the competition. It is Escalon they always find a way to get things done."
Escalon's defense, which held Los Banos to 130 yards of total offense, will present a challenge to Epperson, who showed he can create plays where none seemed to exist.
"He's fast, he's athletic, and he made a number of plays with his feet, where he completed a pass or scrambled for 10 or 15 yards," Snapp said. "Juwan kind of has some things you're not expecting. He didn't turn the ball over (against Selma), but he has a gunslinger mentality where he thinks he can put the ball anywhere, and I like that confidence, and I think our team fed off of it."
The Selma game was a lot closer than Snapp would have liked, but Escalon won't be any easier the Cougars defeated Pacheco 21-7 last year.
"They're excited. I think they were a little disappointed in their execution, so we worked hard on execution," Snapp said. "I've got to give Selma credit, they were a much better team than they were last year. It seemed like they had pinned this game to their clipboard that hey, this is a game we've got to win, and they played like it."
Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached by phone at 388-6565 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org