ROSEMONT — When Los Banos finds itself struggling against a tough opponent, as it did Friday against Capital Christian, head coach Dustin Caropreso gives James Sams the ball.
And Sams didn't disappoint his coach during Friday's 42-14 road win over Capital Christian in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 quarterfinals, rushing 24 times for 295 yards and three touchdowns.
"On the microphone (with the coaches), all I was saying was 'Feed the beast,' " Caropreso said. "That's the guy that was there last year in the Vanden and the Casa Roble games. That's the Sams that we've had."
Sams compiled 113 of those yards in a tough first half, then broke loose in the second half through wide holes opened by his line, coupled with arm tackles and strip attempts by the CC defense.
"They did a great job," Sams said about his line. "I think my mom could have run through those holes."
Los Banos' win, coupled with a 27-26 Escalon win over top-seeded Placer, means that the fifth-seeded Tigers (11-1) will host Escalon in the semifinals next week -- a rematch of a 34-32 Los Banos win in Week 0.
Caropreso interrupted his postgame speech to announce the Escalon-Placer score, telling his players, "Next Friday night is in Los Banos!" and inciting a roar of approval from his players.
"A rematch -- do you want to play the same team twice? No," Caropreso said. "Everybody's been asking me who I would rather play, and I say Placer. Why? Because they've never seen us."
Capital Christian tied the game 14-14 early in the third quarter on a 45-yard Quinton Kirk touchdown run -- the senior found a hole in the middle and sprinted away. Los Banos responded with a quick drive that culminated in a 33-yard Sams touchdown. Sams, showing that his ankle is fully healed, turned inside a defender after weaving to the sideline.
"Our offense has been up against the wall the last few weeks," Caropreso said. "And last week we started showing we were back to what Tiger football is about."
Los Banos' defense took away what made Capital Christian's fly offense the bane of the northern half of the section this year, by first taking away the inside run.
"We like to go inside, because that sets up our outside," Capital coach Phil Grams said. "We just couldn't get it going."
By the fourth quarter, CC was even farther out of its element, tossing up passes on most downs. Grams had a speech of his own to his players, telling them, "This is the most fun season I've ever been part of."