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Los Banos wins another 1-point thriller

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no caption Merced Sun-Star

TRACY -- The cardiac kids are still alive.

Erik Martin and his Los Banos teammates have put the thrill back in thriller, pulling off a second straight last-minute victory in the playoffs.

Martin orchestrated two late scoring drives to help Los Banos erase a 12-point deficit in the final 4 minutes. Martin capped off the improbable comeback with a 5-yard touchdown run with 1:38 left on the clock.

The defense then held on as Los Banos celebrated a second straight one-point victory, with the scoreboard reading: Los Banos 28, Tracy 27.

No. 8 Los Banos will travel to Elk Grove next week to face No. 5 Monterey Trail in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinals.

"The last three weeks, with the Buhach Colony game too, have gone down to the final seconds," said Martin, who scored three rushing touchdowns for the second straight week. "It's fun if you win."

Last week Los Banos (9-3) was helped out by a missed field goal and a missed extra point in overtime by Modesto.

This time Los Banos created its own breaks against previously unbeaten and top-seeded Tracy (11-1).

The Los Banos defense struggled to get Tracy's offense off the field.

Again it was speedster Depray Celestine tormenting the Central California Conference champions.

The senior, who scored two long touchdowns in Tracy's 27-24 victory back in September, found the end zone three times. Celestine scored on touchdown runs of 10, 24 and 14 yards and finished with 138 yards on 16 carries.

Still, Los Banos found a way to stay within striking distance.

With running back Darron Brown held to just 39 yards, it was Martin who found room to run against a Tracy defense that brought all 11 guys near the line of scrimmage at times.

Martin scored on a 37-yard run to pull Los Banos within 20-15 toward the end of the third quarter.

However, Tracy's Jordan Williams intercepted a Martin pass on LB's next possession to set his offense up at Los Banos' 25-yard line.

When fullback Jordan Strong scored on a 1-yard touchdown plunge seven plays later, Los Banos' chances looked bleak, facing a 27-15 deficit with just 10:50 left in the game. It looked even worse after the offense went three-and-out on its next possession.

"It's what we've been saying all year," Los Banos coach Dennis Stubbs said. "It's not who we're playing. It's about us. We always believe. It doesn't matter what's going on. We don't give up. We believe something will happen."

Something did.

The Los Banos defense forced Tracy to punt and Martin caught fire.

He hooked up with Jerrell Minor for a 50-yard completion to move the ball deep into Tracy territory. Martin went 4 for 4 on the drive, including a 10-yard touchdown pass to Minor. Freddie Romero misfired on his second extra-point attempt to keep the deficit at 27-21 with 3:32 left.

The defense again came up with a big play.

This time it was CCC Defensive Player of the Year Julio Iglesias.

On a third-down play, Tracy quarterback Casey Wichman threw a pass to fullback Ricky Diaz. The ball tipped off Diaz's fingers and Iglesias made a diving interception to give Los Banos the ball at its own 33-yard line with 2:43 left.

"Everyone knew it was our last chance, that we had to make a play," Iglesias said. "That's expected of me. I dove with everything I had. When that ball hit my hands, I wasn't going to let it hit the ground."

With Iglesias and the Los Banos defense nervously watching from the sideline, Martin went back to work.

Martin again used his feet, breaking free for a 43-yard run on a quarterback draw to move the ball down to Tracy's 18-yard line.

A 13-yard pass to Max Ornelas set up first-and-goal from the 5-yard line and Martin took over from there, stretching with all of his 6-foot-1 frame to score the game-tying touchdown.

Jovani De La Cruz came on to kick the eventual game-winning PAT.

"Nobody was going to keep me out of the end zone," Martin said. "I was going to give it everything I had on that play. I reached as far as I could to get the ball in the end zone."

Wichman fumbled on Tracy's final possession and Los Banos' John Cisneros pounced on the ball to preserve the win.

Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs


At Tracy

Los Banos 6 3 6 13 -- 28

Tracy 0 14 6 7 -- 27

First Quarter

LB -- Erik Martin 1 run (kick failed)

Second Quarter

T -- Depray Celestine 10 run (Max Garrigan kick)

T -- Celestine 24 run (Garrigan kick)

LB -- Jovani De La Cruz 26 FG

Third Quarter

T -- Celestine 14 run (kick failed)

LB -- Martin 37 run (run failed)

Fourth Quarter

T -- Jordan Strong 1 run (Garrigan kick)

LB -- Jerrell Minor 10 pass from Martin (kick failed)

LB -- Martin 5 run (De La Cruz kick)

Records: Los Banos 9-3, Tracy 11-1