HANFORD — Jack Foote couldn’t be stopped on Friday night as he scored three times for the Tigers and helped his team defeat Hanford West 42-21 at the Neighbor Bowl.
Foote got the scoring started for Lemoore (3-3, 2-0 WYL) just minutes into the game. Facing a fourth-and-10 from their own 45-yard line, Lemoore coach Rene Asencio opted to go for it — and it was a good choice.
Quarterback Kristian Gaytan found a streaking Foote for a 55-yard touchdown and the early 7-0 lead. The 6-play, 65-yard drive took 2:39 and Lemoore was just getting started.
“We were setting up the guy at the line, we were pushing people out of the way,” Foote said. “They were expecting a run and [we] setup a great pass.”
Like last week, Hanford West (3-3, 0-2 WYL) was unable to start quickly. A staple of their offense, they fumbled on their first snap of the game and went three-and-out on their first possession. It didn’t help that they were missing two big playmakers in Desmond Howard and Richard Mendez due to injury.
Starting from their 40-yard line, Lemoore needed only six plays again to find the end zone. Running back Amier Hollis broke one tackle up the middle and found wide open space for the 21-yard touchdown. Hollis had four carries for 30 yards.
The first quarter ended with the Tigers leading 14-0 and Hanford West with two three-and-outs and a turnover on downs.
“We’re not executing, we don’t execute in the beginning,” Hanford West quarterback Ethan Natera said. “With our team, once the other team scores, we kind of just mentally, we just break, a little bit.”
Foote found the end zone again on fourth-and-14 in the second quarter, capping off a 9-play, 81-yard drive. Foote took a pass for 34 yards down the middle of the field almost untouched. The senior finished with an incredible 144 receiving yards on only eight catches.
The score was Lemoore’s second of the night on fourth down and another bad miscue by the Huskies’ defense.
“Just mental mistakes,” Hanford West coach Cannon Sanchez said. “They just kind of caught us sleeping on play-action passes on those down-and-distance, but at the same time, just mental errors. We got to know those situations.”
Hanford West found themselves down 21 points, but did not go quietly. They began to run the option with quarterback Dayamion Houston and Hanford West began to move the ball down the field.
Once the run game was established, Houston found wide receiver Antonio Perez for a 35-yard gain to set up first-and-goal at the 10. Houston took it himself on the next play for the score and a 21-6 deficit after the missed extra point.
With 1:18 left in the half, Gaytan began to march his team up the field, when Hanford West defensive back Val Rangel intercepted a pass and returned it all the way for 60 yards and the touchdown.
Hanford West converted the 2-point conversion and quickly cut the lead to a one-possession game. The teams went into the half with Lemoore leading 21-14.
“I think we had great momentum going into halftime, but at the same time, we got into situations where we were in third-and-long on offense … just little things,” Sanchez said.
Coming out of the half, Hanford West picked up right where they left off and intercepted Gaytan again. This time it was defensive back Keantre Davis with the pick.
The Huskies worked their way down to the 13-yard line and on third-and-five, Shaun Koelewyn caught Natera’s pass for the 13-yard score. The extra point was good and the game was tied at 21-all. Natera was 15-of-24 for 107 yards and a touchdown pass.
“We knew we just weren’t playing our game,” Foote said. “We played some really tough teams and we knew that we had to go back to that mentality. [Coaches] told us to step it up and show who we really are.”
The message resonated since on the ensuing possession, Gaytan found running back Damion Charleston, who had a team-high 16 carries for 74 yards, for a 55-yard touchdown and the 27-21 lead after missed extra point. Gaytan was 10-of-16 for 204 yards and three touchdowns with three interceptions.
Even though they only led by six, it seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. The Huskies turned the ball over on downs on their next possession and the third quarter ended.
Lemoore then went on an 8-play, 55-yard drive to open the fourth and put the team up 35-21. Fullback William Kloster took it 13 yards to the house and then caught the 2-point conversion after.
Foote ended his big night by putting the game away with a 65-yard punt return for a touchdown.
“A lot of green grass, a lot of green grass,” Foote said about his final score.
Lemoore will try to make it three in a row and stay perfect in league next Friday against Golden West (4-1, 0-1 WYL) on the road. Hanford West will stay home and try and end their losing streak and earn their first league win against a struggling Mt. Whitney (1-4, 0-1 WYL) coming off a bye.