LEMOORE — With the Tigers in the middle a rebuild, they’ve struggled to start the season and that continued on Friday. Division III Lemoore (1-2) was no match for Division II Tulare Western (3-0) as they lost 46-7 at Tiger Stadium.
“The biggest issue is we’re just in a rebuilding stage,” first-year coach Joshua Kloster said. “For the past three years … we’ve gone through some growing pains and we’re trying to get thing back on track. Bottom line is when we touch the field we need to be ready to play physically and mentally.”
The lone touchdown of the night came from Lemoore quarterback Justin Holaday. On first-and-goal from Tulare Western’s 9-yard line, Holaday dropped back before running and diving for the right pylon.
“It was a read play for me,” Holaday said. “Read the end go down, ran off, had a couple blocks from my teammates and I got in.”
Holaday’s scamper capped a six-play, 60-yard drive, which started with a 13-yard completion to wide receiver Koy Davis followed by an 11-yard run by Elijah McCalister. A couple of play later, facing a third-and-7 from their opponent’s 33-yard line, Holaday found receiver Will Schalde on the sideline for a 24-yard completion to setup the score.
The two-minute, 21-second drive was about the only part of the game that went well for the Tigers. The line allowed multiple sacks, the defense struggled to contain the run and the offense had back-to-back first downs only once.
“There was a lot of times we had chances to make plays and opportunities slipped through our fingers,” Kloster said. “In big football games with big situations you got to make the plays when they’re there for you.”
Tulare Western led 20-0 after the first quarter, 40-0 at halftime and 40-7 entering the fourth quarter. A running clock was implemented after Tulare Western scored on a 7-yard catch with 8:59 left in the game.
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The Tigers did manage to outscore the Mustangs 7-6 in the second half and limit their scoring.
“We changed our mindset, changed everything,” Holaday said. “We came out to play in the second half, we got a little yelled at in the locker room. We came out, played hard and we did good.”
The game started with the Mustangs scoring on their first possession in under four minutes. The Tigers went three-and-out on consecutive possessions and the Mustangs scored again with 1:36 left in the first quarter.
On the ensuing possession with a first-and-10 from their own 10-yard line, Holaday’s pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by Tulare Western’s Michael Machado who rumbled in for the touchdown.
“We just didn’t come out and play,” Holaday said. “We were a little intimidated and we got to come out better and play harder.”
The Mustangs scored three more times in the second quarter highlighted by a 60-yard touchdown catch by Mikey Ficher.
Lemoore’s preseason doesn’t get any easier with their next game against Sanger next Friday on the road at 7:30 p.m. The Apaches are also one of the top teams in Division II and defeated the Tigers 49-41 last season.
“Inside of this team I see a lot of different things. There’s a lot of good things and there’s also a lot of bad things,” Kloster said. “When you’re in a rebuilding stage and you’re continuing to build on the program it takes the kind of things that we’re going through, the growing pains, to be able to get to the next level.”