LOS BANOS — Since Pacheco High football came on the scene three years ago, Los Banos High's stance has been, "It's not a rivalry until they beat us."
The Crosstown Clash is now officially a rivalry after Pacheco defeated Los Banos 24-7 on Friday.
"Our defense rose to the occasion all night. They're the stars of the game," Pacheco coach David Snapp said. "We take our hats off to them. They kept us in it. We play hard football, we play physical football. Even making the mistakes we did, we never quit, we kept fighting, and that's our mantra."
Those mistakes included turnovers on Pacheco's first two drives a Juwan Epperson interception to LB's Gilbert Fuentes and a Frank Ginda fumble that was picked up by LB linebacker Alec Barcellos. The fumble led to the first score of the night, a 1-yard touchdown charge by Los Banos fullback Bailey Rodriguez that needed a second effort after he was stopped by the Pacheco defensive line. It was the Tigers' only points of the night.
"I think our team is based on defense," said Pacheco receiver/defensive back Adam Perez, who sealed the game with a fourth-quarter interception. "I'm an offensive player, but if you've been to all our games, I'm more of a defensive player this year. Defense wins championships."
Pacheco scored 14 quick points in the last minutes of the first half, starting with a 48-yard Epperson pass to tight end Hunter Mendez on a quick slant. Mendez had one step on the Los Banos secondary, but it was enough to escape the Tigers' outstretched hands. After a Tiger three-and-out, Epperson tossed a 35-yard pass to Librado Velazquez, which set up a 7-yard Epperson keeper for the score.
Pacheco almost added another in the final second of the half when Mendez picked up a fumble near the Pacheco 25-yard line and took off, but LB's Michael Garcia caught him after about 60 yards.
"You've got to take advantage of those opportunities," Los Banos coach Dustin Caropreso said. "Who knows what the outcome of the football game is? We talked all year about opportunities. You can't let anybody stay in a ball game, and we had a chance. And they played well. What are you going to do? You tip your hat to them and wish them the best in the playoffs."
Pacheco started the third quarter with two straight turnovers another Epperson interception and a Moffat Teneng fumble but Los Banos couldn't capitalize, managing just one first down on both possessions. The Panthers held on to the ball long enough for a 25-yard Luis Chavez field goal with 2:59 remaining in the game, and Perez stopped LB's next drive with his interception, which set up a 2-yard Velazquez touchdown.
"We all knew they were going to pass the ball," Perez said. "I got down deep, did what I do, make big plays."
The loss left Los Banos at 5-5 and out of the playoffs for the first time since 2007, while Pacheco (7-2, 4-2 Western Athletic Conference) is playoff-bound for the second straight year.
Stone Ridge Chr. 40, Big Valley Chr. 13 MODESTO -- Stone Ridge Christian rode the running back tandem of Estevan Herrera (178 rushing yards) and Jaime Trevino (142 yards) to a convincing road win over Big Valley Christian and the school's first ever playoff appearance. The Knights (5-5, 3-2 CCAA) grabbed second place in the CCAA with the win.
Hilmar 31, Hughson 6 HUGHSON -- Jonathan O'Brien passed for four second-half touchdowns to turn a close game at halftime into a convincing Hilmar victory. The Yellowjackets (10-0, 5-0 TVL) completed a perfect regular season and should be the No. 1 seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 playoffs.
Mariposa 42, Gustine 7 GUSTINE -- The Grizzlies bounced back from last week's Green & Gold Bowl loss with a rout of Gustine. Mariposa finishes up the regular season 8-2 and should have a top-four seed in the Division 5 playoffs.
Dos Palos 24, Avenal 6 AVENAL -- Dos Palos (3-7, 3-2 WSL) closed out the season with a third straight victory, defeating Avenal on the road.