Tribe’s comeback falls short against Lemoore

Tulare Union’s Jaelin Dominguez breaks up a pass against Lemoore.(Kason Clark)

Despite a strong second-half effort, Tulare Union football suffered a 32-21 loss to Lemoore to begin league play; it was a season low in points for the dynamic Tribe offense

TULARE – Through the first half of the season, Tulare Union football had one of the most potent offenses in the Central Valley. Through their first five games, the Tribe averaged 48.4 points a contest en route to a 4-1 record.

But on Thursday night at Bob Mathias Stadium, the Tribe ran into a tough Lemoore defense that shut them out in the first half. The Tribe eventually found a spark, but it was not enough as they ended up losing, 32-21, to the visiting Tigers.

“Defensively we couldn’t stop them, and offensively they were just more physical than we were,” Tulare Union head coach Darren Bennett said.

Facing an explosive offense, the Lemoore Tigers knew they had to control the time of possession. So on their opening drive of the night, the Tigers used the ground game to march down the field and chew up most of the first quarter.

The Tigers continued their drive into the second quarter as they moved the ball down to the Tribe’s one-yard line. Trevon Gaffney then ran the ball up the gut for the score to make it a 6-0 game.

The Tribe responded with a drive that stalled out in Lemoore territory. With the ball back, the Tigers continued to run the ball and milk the clock. After reaching the Tribe’s 20-yard line, Kobe Green sprinted through the middle for the touchdown. Elijah Daley then ran it in for the two-point conversion to make it a 14-0 game.

Looking to get back into the game, the Tribe picked up first downs on their first two plays of the ensuing possession. But the drive ended when quarterback Jordan Crisp threw an interception to Daley in Lemoore territory.

When they started the second half, the Tribe were looking for a big play. And the defense came through when Ethan Sanchez recovered a Lemoore fumble. The offense then found a spark when Crisp found Sonny Guess on a slant, who took the pass 59 yards deep into Lemoore territory.

A few plays later, Crisp connected with Brayden Stevenson for a 15-yard touchdown strike to cut the deficit to 14-7. But momentum quickly swung back to the Tigers when Daley ran through the Tribe defense for a 71-yard touchdown to extend Lemoore’s lead to 20-7.

“We can’t give up big runs like that,” Bennett said. “They were just more physical than we were. That’s why they got the ground game going so we have to be better than that.”

A special teams mistake further put the Tribe in a hole. With the team lined up to punt, a high snap forced the punter to jump on the ball and down it at the Tribe’s own three-yard line. Lemoore quickly capitalized with a touchdown run from Green to make it 26-7 late in the third.

The Tribe offense showed off their explosiveness with a 72-yard touchdown pass from Crisp to Stevenson on the very first play of the next drive. Then on the next Tulare Union drive, Demaje Riley caught a screen pass from Crisp and broke loose for a 23-yard score to cut the deficit to 26-21.

“We just made plays that we didn’t make in the first half,” Bennett said about the second half. “In the first half, we moved the ball but once we got down there, we didn’t make plays; so now we had to make plays.”

But on the next drive, the defense gave up a 77-yard touchdown run to Dameion Hernandez that made it, 32-21, halfway through the fourth quarter. The Tribe then turned it over on downs on their next possession, and the Tigers ran out the clock to end the game.

Even though it was a season low in points, the Tribe’s best players still put on a show. Crisp finished the night with three touchdown passes, increasing his total to 19 on the year. Stevenson finished the night with a pair of receiving touchdowns, increasing his season total to eight.

The Tribe are still 4-2 on the season, but are now off to an 0-1 start in the West Yosemite League. With the rest of their season consisting of league games, the Tribe will need to learn from their loss to Lemoore if they want to compete.

“We just have to be more physical,” Bennett said. “If you’re not physical, that’s what’s going to happen to us the rest of the year. Teams are just going to start doing that to us.”

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