For three-and-a-half quarters, Dennis Stubbs couldn't have asked for a better homecoming.
Playing smash-mouth football, Stubbs' Los Banos troops -- mainly running back Casey Cotta -- had marched through the mud that used to be Don Odishoo Field.
Stubbs appeared nine minutes away from a 13-0 victory over his old team.
But Golden Valley didn't quit.
Jeremy Jacobo completed his only two passes of the game in the fourth quarter.
They both went for touchdowns in a crazy 14-13 victory for Golden Valley Friday night.
"We battled all the way to the end," said GV coach Jon Betschart, whose team improved to 2-0 in the Central California Conference and 4-2 overall.
"I'm proud of our guys. The football gods were smiling on us tonight."
The existence of football gods may be the only way to explain the bizarre ending.
Los Banos (1-1 CCC, 3-3) appeared to have the game in hand after quarterback Julio Cortez scored on a 1-yard sneak to give LB a 13-0 lead with 11:56 left in the game.
Cotta had shown up in the rain determined to carry the whole town of Los Banos on his back.
The 5-foot-9, 220-pound bruiser carried the ball 43 times for 278 yards and a touchdown.
Cotta literally left everything on the field. The senior collapsed in the end zone after the game and had to be treated for cramps.
Stubbs and his staff may have worked Cotta too hard.
Cotta's one mistake in the game -- a fourth-quarter fumble -- was a key play in GV's comeback.
Golden Valley senior Caleb Fiedor provided the first spark when he set up the first touchdown with a 57-yard kickoff return to the Los Banos 28-yard line.
Facing a fourth down and goal, Jacobo rolled to his right and found Fiedor in the corner of the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown to pull Golden Valley within 13-7 at the 9:39 mark.
"We got that touchdown and in a game like this, you think that's it," Stubbs said. "You have to give them a lot of credit.
We practiced all week not kicking the ball to Caleb.
"Then Jeremy and Caleb hooked up like they have been doing for four years. They just know each other so well."
Later, GV got another break when Cotta fumbled into the arms of Golden Valley linebacker Devon Garcia.
"I feel for (Cotta)," Stubbs said. "I'm sure he feels bad. That's part of the game.
"We wore him down. How many carries did he have?"
Four plays later, Jacobo found receiver Adrian Abarca, who hauled in a pass on the left sideline and raced 21 yards for a touchdown.
Fabian Miramontes' extra point gave Golden Valley a 14-13 lead with 2:20 remaining.
Jacobo completed just 2 of 9 passes for 23 yards and two touchdowns.
"Hey, we caught them when we needed to catch them," Jacobo said.
The craziness wasn't over, however.
Los Banos advanced the ball into GV territory on its next drive.
On fourth down, Cortez completed a pass that came up a foot short of a first down to turn the ball back over to Golden Valley.
Game over, right?
Golden Valley bobbled and fumbled the ball on three straight plays -- only to recover the ball each time.
With 14 seconds left, Golden Valley lined up to punt, but Miramontes couldn't handle a bouncing snap and Los Banos fell on the ball at GV's 15-yard line.
With nine seconds left, Cortez took a shot at a 32-yard field goal, but pushed it wide right.
"When they lined up for the field goal, I just kept thinking we can't lose like this," Jacobo said. "That would have been worse than losing 42-0."
The missed field goal set off a wild celebration on the GV sideline.
Soon Stubbs was shaking hands and hugging some of his former players.
It had been a tough week preparing to face his former players, and the game was enough to give anyone a heartache.
But Stubbs was able to look ahead with confidence.
"We're going to be fine," he said. "We've got a good team. We're not done."
Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.