Los Banos and Escalon proved that neither of them are the offensive juggernauts they were a year ago in a 20-3 Los Banos win Friday night.
A pair of interceptions made the difference for Los Banos — starting with Alec Barcellos, who turned the tide in the second quarter when Escalon quarterback Ben Hood threw off-balance on fourth down. Barcellos was the only player in the vicinity, and he returned the interception to the Escalon 3-yard line.
“We got some good pressure by our outside backer, it was a bad throw, and I was just sitting there waiting for it,” Barcellos said. “It was like a birthday present, almost.”
Barcellos’ runback set up a 4-yard David Walker touchdown run to put Los Banos up 7-3, with a Thomas Diniz field goal representing Escalon’s only points of the night.
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LB’s Chris Lonetree put a stamp on the back-and-forth, field-position battle at the start of the fourth quarter with his own interception. Hood took a hit as he threw, and Lonetree swept in to grab the ball at a full gallop. He didn’t slow down until hitting the end zone 59 yards later.
“Both defenses played really well. I’m very proud of our defense,” Escalon coach Mark Loureiro said. “But we had our chances early, and we only got three points. We’re a young team. You can’t expect to make those kinds of mistakes and come out with a win.”
LB’s offense was slow to get rolling as well, but with Walker grinding out yards, the Tigers were able to wind down the clock in the fourth quarter. Escalon mounted a last drive but it stalled just short of midfield with 3:44 left in the game. Walker provided the exclamation point with a 37-yard touchdown run up the middle five plays later.
Walker finished with 74 yards on 12 carries. Escalon spread the ball around more, with Frankie Bavarro’s 14 carries for 47 yards leading seven ball carriers.
Neither team was able to get much passing done, with several of Loggan Pimentel’s passes batted by Escalon linemen. Pimentel completed 3 of 10 passes for 32 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. Hood finished 4-of-13 in the air with no scores and two picks.
“Our coach was saying this is the difference between making the playoffs or not, this first game right here,” said Barcellos, who doubles as a tight end and a safety. “We need to get our offense going, but if our defense plays like this the rest of the season, we’ve got a good chance.”
Farther south in the Valley, Pacheco earned a 16-13 comeback victory over host Selma on a fourth-quarter touchdown from quarterback Juwan Epperson to receiver Maurice Harden. Pacheco hosts Escalon next Friday, while Los Banos heads to Roosevelt of Fresno.