The voice Daniel Guerrero hears in the back of his head when he lines up each play belongs to Los Banos High receiving coach Imani Percoats.
The Los Banos High senior has worked with Pearcoats for two seasons.
“He’s always telling us to be great liars,” Guerrero said.
The goal on every pass play for the Tigers receivers is to convince the defensive back they are running one route when they are actually running another one.
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Guerrero has turned into a great liar on the field, hauling in 38 catches for 925 yards and 13 touchdowns this season. He’s become a big play waiting to happen, averaging 25 yards per catch.
Guerrero and the No. 6 seed Tigers (9-1) will open the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III Playoffs on Friday night against No. 11 Rio Linda (6-4). Kickoff is schedule for 7 p.m. at Loftin Stadium.
Los Banos has featured a high-powered offensive attack this season, averaging 33.7 points and almost 493 yards per game. They’ve done it with balance as running back Antonio Lopez has rushed for 1,318 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Even when Lopez was sidelined the last few weeks with an ankle injury, sophomore Justin Incaprera has filled in nicely with 309 yards and two touchdowns, including 222 yards on just 14 carries last week against Pacheco.
Quarterback Anthony Caballero has been a dual threat, throwing for 2,230 yards and 28 touchdowns to go along with 757 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
Paulie Calderon has also turned in a solid season opposite Guerrero with 36 receptions for 744 yards and seven touchdowns.
With all the Tigers weapons it makes it tough for defenses to key in on any one person. That’s helped Guerrero get free for plenty of big plays.
“He’s become our go-to guy,” said Los Banos head coach Dustin Caropreso. “Him and Nano (Caballero) have something going right now. They feed off each other. Nano can see a mismatch before the play. When he drops back and throws it, it looks like he’s over thrown it, but Speedy (Guerrero) catches up to it and catches it in stride.”
Guerrero says he has a great relationship with Caballero that goes back to when they started playing football together in sixth grade.
“We’re like brothers really,” Guerrero said. We’ve been working all year long to perform like we have on Friday night. I think he knows whenever I’ll beat a corner. Before a play, he’ll tell me the corner is pressing up on you. I’m going to look for you.”
Guerrero has caught at least one touchdown in five consecutive games and scored at least two touchdowns in four games during that stretch.
“He first think about Speedy is he has a huge work ethic,” Caropreso said. “He’s not the biggest receiver. He’s 5-8, maybe pushing 5-9. He runs great routes. That comes with working with coach Percoats. He gets in and out of his routes fast. Then he’s elusive when he catches the ball.”
Guerrero credits much of his success to working with Percoats. It helps when your receiver coach was one of the best receivers ever at your high school. Percoats left Los Banos and rewrote the Merced College record book the one season he spent in a Blue Devils uniform before going to Oregon State. Pearcoats set MC records in 1998 for receptions in a season (87), yards in a season (1,686) and touchdowns in a season (17).
“He’s taught me a lot,” Guerrero said. “I’ve worked with him for two years, since I came up to varsity as a junior. He’s taught me to be patient. He’s taught me how to maneuver around the field. Without him I wouldn’t be the receiver I am today.”
With nine wins this season there haven’t been many road bumps this season for Los Banos. The one exception was a big one in the form of a 47-14 loss to Patterson, which cost the Tigers an undefeated regular season and a Western Athletic Conference championship.
Los Banos has rebounded with convincing a 40-27 win over Livingston and a 55-21 rout of Pacheco.
“I think it made us work harder,” Guerrero said. “Losing.. it’s hard. We were undefeated. Our coach told us it wasn’t the end of the world. We still had a good thing going. We took it as a lesson and learned from it.”