LEMOORE — The Tigers have bought in.
Sitting at 1-5 after a brutal preseason schedule and a tough start to the West Yosemite League schedule, the season looked bleak. But after four losses in a row, the Tigers have put it together and are now red hot.
“The kids have bought in and we’re getting through this rebuild thing that we’re in and they’re really starting to play good football,” first-year Lemoore coach Joshua Kloster said. “They’re hitting their stride, they’re believing in the program, they’re having a lot of great success because they’re trying very, very hard in executing on both sides of the ball.”
Their latest win came against Golden West on Senior Night and during homecoming at Tiger Stadium on Friday. Lemoore’s 42-6 WYL victory was the team’s first home win of the season and extended their winning streak to three games.
It’s the first time the Tigers (4-5, 3-1 WYL) have won three consecutive games in a season since 2015. Their four wins are already double from last season’s total.
“It’s the administration, the school, it’s them giving me an opportunity, it’s the coaching staff and, most importantly, it’s the players,” Joshua Kloster said. “We can coach them every single day, but most importantly they got to go out on the football field … and they got to perform and they got to execute.”
After honoring their 19 seniors before the game, Lemoore received the kickoff and promptly marched down the field to score on the opening drive. The 8-play, 50-yard drive ended with running back William Kloster punching it in from five yards out and the rout was on.
“We were just fired up ready to rock,” William Kloster said. “We’ve been playing really good football lately and we came out with fire.”
After the defense forced a three-and-out, the Tigers only needed five plays to find the end zone again. Lemoore wide receiver Will Schalde found space in the middle of the field and took a pass 37 yards for the 14-0 lead.
Two more scores followed with Elijah Jones catching a 20-yard pass and William Kloster scoring on a 15-yard run. William Kloster’s score came while facing a third-and-four. He finished with two touchdowns.
“The O-line they made a big hole for me and I did the rest,” Kloster said.
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The first quarter ended with the Tigers leading 28-0. They scored a touchdown on all four of their possessions while allowing only one first down to the Pioneers. It was a trend that continued throughout the game.
The Tigers’ defense held again to open the second quarter and got the ball back at their own 46-yard line. After an incomplete pass, Lemoore quarterback Justin Holaday found receiver Chris Taylor down the sideline for 46 yards and the touchdown.
“My coach called it up said, ‘X Go,’” Taylor said. “He calls it a track meet whenever I have a go on him, so he just throws it up really and whoever catches it, catches it.”
Holaday equaled a season-high four touchdown passes and three of them went for 35 yards or more.
“When everything’s going right and the line blocks and Justin stays in there and makes great plays, we can put a lot of points up in a hurry,” Joshua Kloster said. “The last couple of weeks he’s been playing some phenomenal football and it shows on the football field.”
Leading 35-0 at halftime, Mt. Whitney managed to score in the third quarter before Taylor scored his second of the night on a 40-yard catch. Taylor’s catch triggered a running clock in the fourth quarter.
“It was kind of almost a busted play, but I just threw my hand up because I was open and he found me on a good route,” Taylor said.
Lemoore’s victory also clinches a playoff spot since the team will finish over .500 in league. This comes after the team won two games last season and went 0-5 in the WYL.
“The team’s very, very excited,” Joshua Kloster said. “I told them at the beginning of the year, ‘You had to stay focused,’ because we played a pretty tough meat grinder of a schedule and I got them to all believe and stay in there and now we’re starting to peak at the right time of the year.”
Now sitting at 3-1 in league, Lemoore can grab a share of the league title if they defeat Hanford next week. The 76th Milk Can game between the two teams is slated for 7 p.m. at the Neighbor Bowl.