Los Banos is looking for more from Moore

With Sams ailing, senior emerges as weapon for Tigers

jburns@modbee.comOctober 15, 2012 

— On the biggest night of James Sams' career, Delvonte Moore was on a trainer's table with a badly twisted ankle.

While Sams ran wild for 354 yards on 40 carries in a victory over Manteca, Moore hobbled and squirmed along the sideline, just searching for a view.

Their roles were reversed on Friday in a 48-12 victory over Patterson.

Sams suffered an ankle sprain of his own and watched the final 24 minutes from the sideline.

There, with no cleats, no helmet and a morning appointment with an ice bath, Sams cheered his understudy's breakout performance.

Moore, with top-end speed and a nose for the ball, was the most versatile player on the field. He finished with three touchdowns and tallied his first interception of the season.

"It felt great to score. I hadn't scored since we played Escalon in the first week," Moore said. "I was talking about getting into the end zone all day, and I did three times. I was talking to teammates, to my uncle ... to some of the security guards at school."

While Sams' injury is cause for concern, no one is fretting the temporary loss of the Bee's reigning Offensive Player of the Year.

Not even Sams, who missed half a game in 2011 with an ankle sprain.

"You never know what's going to happen on the field. I'm never guaranteed to play the whole game. Never guaranteed to be healthy," said Sams, who has rushed for 1,207 yards and 14 TDs on 148 carries. "If something goes down like that again, it's nice to know we have depth. We don't have to be in a panic."

Sams received treatment at school over the weekend, and his status for Friday's homecoming game against Central Valley is up in the air. Los Banos coach Dustin Caropreso has said he won't rush his star back onto the field.

In the meantime, he'll continue to sharpen his newest weapon: Moore, a player who answers to "DeeDee" and runs like he were shot out of a BB gun.

Moore is listed as a fullback and wide receiver on the team roster, but his contributions have largely come as a ball-hawking safety. He had just seven touches -- three receptions, four carries -- in the Tigers' first six games.

On Friday, the gameplan was to use more of Moore.

Sams' injury only accelerated matters.

"This past week in practice, we threw him back there to give Sams a little rest," Caropreso said on Saturday. "Just his explosiveness, he's a totally different runner than Sams. Sams is patient, see where the hole is. DeeDee, when he gets the edge, he has the speed to take it the distance.

"It gives us two different options; a two-headed monster at running back."

Sams (148 carries, 1,207 yards, 14 TDs) was visibly shaken on his first carry. Pressured in the backfield, Sams pushed his way back to the line of scrimmage, where he was chopped down for no gain.

He lay on the turf for a few moments and then hobbled off the field under the arm of fullback Bailey Rodriguez, with his left leg dangling behind him.

"That's the leg I like to explode off of," said Sams, who returned to tote the ball nine more times in the half, totaling just 7 yards.

At the intermission, with Los Banos ahead comfortably 22-6, Caropreso shut Sams down, handing him over to the trainer.

The offense never skipped a beat.

Quarterback Chris Corpuz was nearly perfect, hitting on 17 of 23 passes for 288 yards and four touchdowns. He also tacked on a 15-yard rushing touchdown.

Receivers Daeton West and Keith Turner had equal shares in the offense. Turner led all pass-catchers with six receptions and 168 yards, while West orchestrated Los Banos' Wildcat package.

Those three are known quantities in the Tigers' offense.

The wildcard was Moore, a player former coach Dennis Stubbs once called Los Banos' prototypical running back.

How would he respond to his first extensive offensive action of the season? Could he find the running lanes and deploy all that speed and power? Would his body hold up against all those hits?

Moore averaged 6.1 yards per carry (10-61), caught three passes for 19 yards and wore down Patterson's defense late. He scored on a 15-yard pass and 4-yard run to start the fourth quarter, highlighting a 26-0 charge over the final 12 minutes.

"If we're going to be competitive in this thing, Sams is going to need to get a rest. The kid never gets a break and our offense is ran through him," Caropreso said. "We need DeeDee in there; we need him to get eight, nine, 10 carries.

"We've got some stuff in the making, that's for sure. ... We have a bunch of stuff we can do."

James Burns is the Regional Sports Content Editor of The Modesto Bee and Merced Sun-Star. He can be reached at jburns@modbee.com or (209) 578-2324.

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