Sams becomes Tigers' all-time leading rusher

sports@losbanos.comNovember 23, 2012 

— James Sams has been talked about, both in print and at the drugstore counter in downtown Los Banos, plenty in the last two seasons.

But a few words from a man who set a record before Sams was born had the most effect on him after Friday's 42-35 quadruple-overtime playoff loss to Escalon at Loftin Stadium in Los Banos.

"Tough luck. Congratulations, buddy," said 1993 LBHS graduate Rodney Percoats as he hugged Sams, who had just broken Percoats' school record for career rushing yards.

Percoats works on a referee crew on games all around the section, but he had Friday off.

"It's impressive to be in the house when your record of 20 years gets broken, and it couldn't happen to a better kid," Percoats said. "I've known James Sams for a long time. I know his family. He's a great kid, and if anybody was going to break my record, I'm glad it was him."

Percoats amassed 3,777 yards in three years as Los Banos' featured back, including the 1991 section championship season, and Sams needed 81 yards to tie that record before the game.

The senior got it with 2:17 remaining in the third quarter when he took the ball around the left edge, plowed through a pair of would-be tacklers, and skated away for a 73-yard touchdown.

"I didn't even know that that was going to break the record," Sams said. "I was just doing what I do to try to help my team win."

Eventually Sams' new record -- 3,858 yards after his 20-carry, 162-yard night -- will probably fall.

But whether it lasts one year or 20, as Percoats' did, it's an important figure to Sams.

"It means a lot, because our community backs us up 110 percent," Sams said. "So it feels good knowing you gave it your all for them, knowing that their support helps."

While Sams' season ended shortly after he set his record, another record-setter from Friday's game is still in the hunt for a section title.

On the other side of the field, Escalon's Nathan Chunn came into the game already holding his school's record for a single season, and is the school's first 2,000-yard rusher.

He will have another week to add to his mark -- which was 2,135 yards after Friday's 26-carry, 121-yard performance, but the victory is more important to him.

"It just means my O-line is outstanding. No individual awards. Stats don't mean anything, it's all about how we come out and play," said Chunn, whose power run style is more reminiscent of Percoats than Sams' speed game. "The game is won between the tackles."

David Witte can be reached at sports@losbanosenterprise.com.

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