LEMOORE – With five minutes left on the clock, the Lemoore football team was on its play to playing for a league title this week.
But after a barrage of late turnovers, the Tigers will be playing only for pride.
Needing a win to stay in the West Yosemite League title chase, the Tigers fell to El Diamante 34-17 after holding a late 17-13 lead to fall out of contention in the WYL title race.
With the loss, Lemoore falls to 4-5 overall and 3-2 in the WYL, while El Diamante clinched at least a share of the WYL title. The Miners (5-0 WYL) can now win the outright league title with a win over Golden West (4-1 WYL) this week. Should the Blazers win, the two teams will share the league crown.
Had the Tigers won their final two games, it would have at least clinched a share of its third league title in the past four years.
But the Miners halted the Tigers momentum in league play, with Lemoore struggling to finish the game off.
Lemoore took its first lead of the game with 9:34 left in the fourth quarter when Amier Hollis broke off a 27-yard touchdown run.
But the Miners responded with a prolonged drive that ended with Devontae Freeman's 2-yard touchdown run on fourth and goal.
With the Tigers needing a score, quarterback Kristian Gaytan threw the first of three interceptions in the final minutes that secured the Miners' win. That included an interception on his next throw, that set up Freeman's 1-yard touchdown run with 1:50 left.
And with 37 seconds left, No. 6 returned his third interception of the quarter for the final score.
In all, the Miners interception five passes.
“It's hard to win when you have five interceptions,” said Lemoore head coach Rene Asencio.
El Diamante jumped out to an early 13-0 lead with Freeman scoring on the Miners first drive of the game,
His 34-yard touchdown run with 7:06 left in the first was the first of his four touchdowns and made it 6-0.
He scored again later in the quarter to make it 13-0 but Lemoore wouldn't allow any more points until late in the fourth quarter.
In the second quarter, the Tigers pulled to within a score when Jack Foote caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from Gaytan to make it 13-7.
On Lemoore's next drive, the Tigers had to settle for a field goal, with Josh Roa converting from 30 yards out to make the score 13-10. The scored remained the same into the half and into the fourth quarter.
Gaytan finished the game 13-of-26 for 135 yards passing with one touchdown and five interceptions.
Foote caught a 12 passes of those passes for 132 yards and a score.
The Miners were carried by Freeman, whose 44 carries went for 225 yards and four scores.
Lemoore will now look to bounce back in its regular season finale this week against rival Hanford in its annual Milk Can game before starting play in the Central Section Div. II playoffs.
“We want this to be a special season for the seniors,” Asencio said. “We still think we can make it a special season if we win the Milk Can.”