It can be kind of scary opening the playoffs without your starting quarterback.
Fortunately for Atwater, the Falcons have a backup quarterback with experience in Anthony Diaz. The senior threw three touchdowns and ran for another score as No. 5 seed Atwater (8-3) opened the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs with a 50-26 win over No. 12 Kimball on Friday night at Dave Honey Stadium.
Diaz filled in for Julius Peacock, who injured his hamstring late in a 14-13 loss to Buhach Colony in the Bloss Bowl last week.
“I think Diaz got comfortable in the second half,” said Atwater coach Seneca Ybarra. “He had to kind of get his feet wet. He hadn’t started a game since his junior year.”
The Falcons proved they still had plenty of offensive fire power as senior running back Charles Jackson ran for two touchdowns and added a 41-yard touchdown catch.
Diaz helped the Falcons break a 14-14 tie in the third quarter with a 16-yard touchdown run. Diaz also added the two-point conversion to give Atwater a 22-14 lead.
After the Falcons defense came up with a stop, James Thomas punched in a 3-yard run to extend the Falcons’ lead to 29-14.
Atwater was off and running as the Falcons scored 36 second-half points.
Tight end Xavier Williams hauled in two touchdowns in the game.
The Falcons will head to Manteca next week for a second-round matchup with No. 4 Sierra (8-3).
Friday was Atwater’s first home playoff game since 1998.
“Being here after working at Merced and graduating from Golden Valley, I’ve kind of been adopted into this Atwater community,” Ybarra said. “This is a big deal. I had people coming up to me after the game. I had a lot of well wishers. I had text messages and e-mail from alumni.”
“This is a fun time in this community. Atwater has become a football town this year with two good teams with Buhach Colony having a great season.”
Sierra 61, Golden Valley 15 in Manteca — The Timberwolves scored the first 61 points of the game against a depleted Cougars team.
Alexis Grandados and Jamarcus Phllips scored late touchdowns for Golden Valley, which finished the season with a 4-7 record.
Los Banos 48, Woodland 21 in Woodland — The No. 12 Tigers pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the first round with a win over No. 5 Woodland (7-4).
Los Banos’ one-two punch of Landon Ramos and Justin Incaprera combined for six touchdowns.
Ramos caught five balls for 267 yards and three touchdowns and Incaprera rushed for 63 yards and three scores.
“We have a two-headed monster which makes it tough for teams to try to defend,” said Los Banos coach Dustin Caropreso. “I don’t think they were prepared for them tonight.”
Los Banos quarterback Colby Copp completed 10 of 21 passes for 330 yards and four touchdowns.
The Tigers defense had a stellar game as Ryan Subia and Bryan Dabney both recorded two sacks. Thomas Lagos finished with 13 tackles and one sack.
Los Banos will travel to Sacramento next week to face No. 4 Bradshaw Christian.
Rosemont 41, Livingston 19 in Sacramento — The Wolves (6-5) saw their season come to an end as the Wolverines pulled away in the second half in this Division V matchup.
Quarterback Rocklin Baptista scored on two rushing touchdowns for Livingston and Tyler Davis added another score on the ground.
Le Grand 41, Big Valley Christian 28 in Le Grand — Ivan Perez caught six passes for 161 yards and two scores as the No. 4 Bulldogs (6-5) defeated the No. 5 Lions for a second time this season.
Martinez added a 37-yard touchdown run.
Running back Gavin Hernandez got the Bulldogs offense off to a fast start with two first-quarter touchdowns.
Le Grand will face top seed Denair next week. The Coyotes defeated the Bulldogs 20-12 on Sept. 20.
Dos Palos 34, Libery 27 in Dos Palos — The No. 3 seeded Broncos avoided the upset as Michael Merrell returned an interception 13 yards in the fourth quarter for the game-winning score in the first round of the Central Section Division V playoffs.
Zane Merrell hauled in two third-quarter touchdowns from Trent Calvert to help Dos Palos erase a 20-14 halftime deficit.
Tyree Martin added a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown for the Broncos in the second quarter.
Dos Palos (10-1) will host No. 11 Exeter, which upset No. 6 Woodlake 17-12 on Friday night.