VISALIA – The race for the West Yosemite League football title tightened up Friday.
And the Lemoore football team wasn't willing to blame its first league loss on a bad batch of chicken tacos.
With nearly a dozen players suffering food poisoning symptoms a day after having a team booster dinner together, the Tigers had their worst defensive showing of the season in a 56-28 loss to Golden West.
With Lemoore's loss, El Diamante remains the only team in WYL play without a loss.
Golden West, the preseason favorite to win the league, bounced back after losing to Redwood last week.
Lemoore head coach Rene Asencio wouldn't blame the pesty poultry for the loss, instead crediting Golden West for its superior play on a night the Blazers needed a win to stay in the WYL title race.
“We're not going to make excuses,” Asencio said. “You can't take anything away from Golden West.”
In all, the Blazers accounted for over 600 yards of offense on their way to building a big first half lead before cruising to the win in the second half.
Golden West scored on all six of its first half possessions to build a 42-21 lead by the break.
Lemoore found itself leading 7-0 early in the first quarter with running back Damion Charleston scoring his first of three touchdowns during a big first half.
The senior finished the game with 291 yards rushing on 24 carries with 250 of those yards coming in the first half.
But the Blazers' run offense was a little more potent with nine runs of 20 yards or more.
Golden West's Kai Caudell and Gonzalo Rodriguez each finished with more than 200 yards on the ground.
Caudell finished with 216 yards on nine carries with two touchdowns while Rodriguez had 17 carries for 203 yards and four touchdowns.
After Lemoore's first touchdown, Golden West faced a crucial, fourth-and-two deep in Lemoore territory.
Golden West's Ian Kelly would break through on a 12-yard run, finding the end zone to tie the game 7-7.
The Blazers wouldn't look back.
After Lemoore failed to convert on a fourth down of its own on the following possession, the Blazers needed just five plays to go nearly 70 yards for its second touchdown of the game with 58 seconds left in the first quarter.
Golden West went on to score four times in the second quarter and Lemoore never threatened.
Charleston's third touchdown of the game pulled the Tigers to within 35-21 with 2:06 left in the half, but a deep touchdown pass a minute later sent Golden West into the break rolling.
Even with the loss, Lemoore controls its own destiny in the WYL title race.
At 3-4 overall and 2-1 in the WYL, the Tigers would win at least a share of the league title should they win out. Lemoore still has games against Mt. Whitney, EL Diamante and Hanford.
Golden West (5-1 overall, 1-1 WYL) has yet to play El Diamante (2-0 WYL).
“We knew the league was going to be even,” Asencio said. “Hopefully we can regroup. No pun intended, but I like that we got punched in the gut and kept fighting.”