Two big plays by the Los Banos High defense had given the Tigers momentum in the second half on Friday night against Mountain House.
Jacob Johnson scored on a pick-six to give Los Banos the lead early in the third quarter.
On the Mustangs’ next possession, backup quarterback Timothy Cantu came in for one play, and his handoff exchange with running back Avery Books popped up in the air and Los Banos’ Andrew Borrego recovered the ball.
The Tigers had the ball with an opportunity to go ahead by two scores, however, Mountain House stopped Los Banos on fourth down.
Jesse Jordan returned at quarterback, leading the Mustangs to touchdown drives on their next two possessions as Mountain House improved to 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the Western Athletic Conference with a 26-17 win over the Tigers at Loftin Stadium.
“I think that possession right there after we get the fumble – if we move the ball a little bit – we get momentum on our side,” said Los Banos coach Dustin Caropreso, whose team dropped to 3-3 overall and 2-1 in the WAC. “Hind site being 20/20, maybe we should have punted instead of going for it on fourth down.”
The Tigers faced a fourth-and-two on their own 46-yard line with about 8 minutes left in the third quarter and Los Banos leading 17-14.
It appeared Los Banos was going to try to draw the Mustangs offside, but the ball was snapped. Tate didn’t look like he was ready for the snap. He bobbled it and then tried to run up the middle. Just before he was going to be tackled, he pitched the ball back to Justin Incaprera, but he was immediately tackled for a loss to the turn the ball over to Mountain House.
Jordan returned after being carried off the field on Mountain House’s previous drive. The 5-foot-11 senior was a thorn in the Tigers’ paw all night with option plays. He finished with 97 yards rushing and one touchdown on 22 carries. He also threw for 191 yards and two touchdowns.
“He ran the football well,” Caropreso said. “They were slippery. They did some good things tonight.”
After the Mustangs defense came up with the key stop, Jordan led Mountain House on a 11-play drive that covered 42 yards. Jordan connected with Jakob Moberg and Keenami Maggard on two third-down passes to extend the drive. Jordan capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run that gave the Mustangs a 20-1 lead with 1:15 left in the third quarter.
Maggard put his finger prints all over the game, recording three sacks from his defensive end position and also scoring on a 23-yard touchdown catch on the Mustangs’ next possession. The 6-4 Maggard outjumped Los Banos’ 6-2 cornerback Bryant Camp for the pass from Jordan and ran untouched into the end zone to extend the lead to 26-17 with over 9 minutes left in the game.
The Tigers offense was shut out in the second half. Los Banos missed two long field goals in the fourth quarter. The Tigers had opportunities for big plays in the passing game.
Landon Ramos, who hauled in a 59-yard touchdown pass from Tate in the first half, dropped a 30-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“How many balls did we drop?” Caropreso said. “Poor Landon had a tough day. Mountain House is a good team, but we didn’t play our best. We had opportunities to make plays, we just couldn’t take advantage.”
The Tigers biggest play in the second half was Johnson’s 25-yard interception return. It was the second straight week he had a pick-six.
“As soon as I got that interception, the first thing I thought of was to just run,” said Johnson, who also finished with eight tackles. “I knew my guys would make the blocks for me.”
Ramos finished with four catches for 94 yards. Tate completed 13 of 25 passes for 196 yards and one touchdown.