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Los Banos, Atwater face unbeaten teams

"Someone's 'O' has got to go."

Announcers love to use the phrase before two undefeated boxers square off in the ring.

The same could be said tonight as Los Banos and Atwater take on opponents with unblemished records.

Both Central California Conference teams will try to knockout heavyweights in the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.

To move on, they will have to make the "0" in the loss column disappear.

Los Banos (8-3), fresh off escaping a 27-26 overtime win over Modesto last week, will travel to to Division I No. 1 seed Tracy (11-0).

Atwater (8-3) will square off against No. 2 Rocklin (11-0) at Whitney High in the Division II playoffs.

Kickoff for both games is scheduled for 7 p.m.

"They're good," Atwater coach Bob Valladao said. "They are very well balanced. They've thrown for over 2,000 yards and they've run for that much.

"They've got a good tailback, a good quarterback and good receivers. They're fast and physical.

"They play in a tough league. For them to be 11-0 says a lot."

Valladao feels his team has more than a puncher's chance.

Atwater's best chance to pull off the upset is definitely to hold on to the ball and control the clock.

"Atwater's very physical up front," Rocklin coach Greg Benzel said. "They like to run the ball and they stop the run. That's what you need to do to win games."

Atwater could be in for a long night if it can't keep Rocklin's high-powered offense off the field.

Not many teams have.

Quarterback Jimmy Laughren has thrown for 1,979 yards and 18 touchdowns. Running back Jackson Cummings has racked up 1,607 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns.

"We have to keep pounding it and keep their offense off the field," Atwater quarterback Nathan Sanchez said. "If we can do that, maybe they'll get frustrated and the game can swing our way.

"They look good. They make minimal mistakes, but they're human."

If Los Banos has one advantage over Atwater, it's familiarity with Tracy.

This will be the third time in two years the two teams have played.

Tracy defeated Los Banos 55-48 in an early season shootout last year.

The two teams met again this year with Tracy defeating Los Banos 27-24 on Sept. 11.

It's the closest any team has come to defeating the San Joaquin Athletic Association champs this year.

"I expect a similar game," Tracy coach Mark Stroup said. "Los Banos has a real nice quarterback, a real nice running back and you can tell they're well-coached.

"They're not going to do anything fancy. They're going to line up and come right at you. They do what they do well."

Tracy speedster Depray Celestine was the difference in this year's matchup.

The senior running back left Los Banos trying to tackle his shadow in the last game, scoring two long second-half touchdowns to help Tracy erase a 14-3 halftime deficit.

"I thought we contained him pretty well," Los Banos coach Dennis Stubbs said. "It was basically two plays and on both plays we made mistakes. Our safety got caught looking in the backfield."

There shouldn't be a fear factor for Los Banos with the two close games.

"We need to make them play four quarters," Stubbs said. "They haven't had to do that since they played us.

"For our kids, they know they can play with them. They've done it before."

As boxing announcer Michael Buffer would say, "Let's get ready to rumble."

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