LOS BANOS—Summerville Bears running back Tanner Krieg rushed for nearly 100 yards and two touchdowns and quarterback Jesse Roberson connected with tight end Connor Morningstar for 84 yards and a touchdown in a first-round playoff loss on Friday.
The No. 5 Los Banos Tigers ran away in the second half to defeat the No. 12 Bears 41-18 and end their postseason run in the 2012 Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV Championships.
“We played a buzz saw,” said Bears head coach Ben Watson. “It’s a big school with a lot of talent and we matched them play for play. The game just slipped away in the third quarter when we didn’t answer.”
The Bears received the kickoff to open the game and swiftly drew first blood.
Roberson started the drive with a 9-yard slant to receiver Dalton Day followed by two rushes by Krieg that gained 7 more yards and a first down.
Roberson was sacked by Tigers co-captain Nathan Vanderpoel for a 7-yard loss but quickly shook it off and, on the next play, threw a short pass to senior Joey Brocchini that gained 49 yards on the catch-and-run.
From the Linden 15, Roberson handed the ball to Krieg, who ran it up the gut for six points with 9:28 in the first quarter. Krieg was stopped just short of the goal line on a pitch during the ensuing two-point conversion attempt.
Los Banos got the ball on their own 42 after a short kickoff and went to work on a drive that would answer Summerville.
“We tried a lot of blitz calls to stop the run, but they have some pretty good lineman off the ball who stuck to us like Velcro and a good running back who can make plays in space,” said Bears linebacker Eric Wold.
The Tigers grabbed the lead with a touchdown on the first play of the second quarter and then scored again less than two minutes later after taking advantage of a Summerville turnover.
The Bears fought hard on their next possession and marched 79 yards in 13 plays for a touchdown.
Roberson picked up three first downs on separate passes to Krieg, Brocchini and Trevor Larsson, respectively. Krieg then burst through a gap in the middle — trucking over defenders along the way — for 16 yards which brought the ball to the Los Banos 20.
Krieg ran for a 3-yard touchdown three plays later bringing Summerville to within 10 points of Los Banos (22-12) at halftime.
The Bears came out of the locker room hitting hard in the second half.
“We were definitely fired up and going for the win (going into the second half),” said Bears senior Darren Vallelunga. “We were still in this game but we just didn’t execute.”
After receiving the kickoff, Los Banos fumbled the ball on its first play, a rush, and Summerville recovered it at the Tiger 47.
But the Bears didn’t capitalize and turned it over on downs.
Los Banos then extended its lead to 28-12 on a long touchdown pass.
But the Bears didn’t go down without a fight and stormed back with a scoring drive of their own.
The offense marched the ball to the Los Banos 24 before Roberson threw to Morningstar in the endzone.
The 6-foot-7 Morningstar snatched the ball out of the air with ease over the top of a leaping 5-foot-11 Los Banos cornerback and pulled it in for six points to make it 28-18.
“I have a really good height advantage over corners on any team,” said Morningstar. “Jesse just threw a good ball to where only I could catch it, so I give all the credit to him on that one.”
Morningstar caught a total seven Roberson passes for 84 yards and five first downs on the night. He was targeted more this game because he had been slowed down with a hurt back in the past three, which the Bears attempted to use to their advantage.
“In the films (Los Banos) borrowed, I wasn’t 100 percent, so on the films they had I wasn’t such a threat,” Morningstar explained. “It was sort of like a secret weapon type of thing.”
Summerville would get no closer and the Tigers added a pair of touchdowns to pull away.
The Bears finished the season 8-3 overall and 3-2 in the Mother Lode League.
“We had an opportunity to cut it to three and then all of the sudden we look at the score and it’s 17,” Watson said. “You’re playing an explosive team so you know when you get a 14-point turnaround it’s tough. We needed to score and get within three points but we just couldn’t get that done.”
Watson said his players and fellow coaches have nothing to be ashamed of losing to as strong of a competitor as Los Banos in the first-round of the stacked Division IV playoffs, which Sac-Joaquin Section officials have called “the most impressive playoff bracket of any division in Section history...”
“When we’re playing a team like that we want to play perfect, and we didn’t, but it wasn’t from lack of effort or lack of heart,” Watson said. “I’m just super proud of the guys with the way they came out and hung it out there. They played with a lot of passion.”
The game also marked the end of the high school football careers for the Bear seniors and Watson said it’s difficult to say goodbye to such a “great, classy group.”
“These parents of these kids are special people,” said Watson. “They’ve got special kids and you can tell how well they’ve been raised by their parents just by the way that they act and the classy group that they are. I come to school in the morning and cannot wait to see these guys and then in football practice. They are no doubt the highlight of my life right now.”
Departing seniors also made a point of commending their teammates on a hard fought season.
“I can’t complain about any of my teammates,” said Bears senior Trevor Larsson. “All of our team had heart. I love everybody and I’ll remember this forever.”
Krieg said it also brings to an end many years of playing together, even before high school.
“I’ve been playing with these guys since Pop Warner,” said Krieg, who broke Summerville’s regular season rushing record with 1,430 yards. “In eighth grade, we went 8-2 and lost in the playoffs and we did the same this year, but it’s just been a really great season playing with them.”
Meanwhile, juniors like Wold are taking time to reflect on the season and looking forward to another next year.
“To me, this is more than just a game because when I see the other guys at school we’re like brothers,” Wold said. “Next year, we’re bringing some key players up from JV and building from there. Hopefully, we’ll have another great season.”