Frontier can't slow down Lemoore in 56-21 semifinal loss

Nov. 19—LEMOORE — Frontier didn't force Lemoore to punt a single time Friday night, but for one brief moment late in the first half it looked like the Titans might find a way to win nonetheless.

Trailing 28-7, Frontier got a hard-charging 25-yard run from Samuel Marquez to set up an 18-yard touchdown pass from Malakhi Statler to Mason Tapia. Ezekiel Castruita then drove the ensuing squib kick right into an unsuspecting Tiger and recovered it himself to set up another Statler score just four plays later.

Lemoore was set to get the ball after the half, but now the Tigers led just 28-21. Force a turnover or two — as, indeed, the Titans did — and they'd have a good shot at reaching the Division II section final.

But ultimately, Frontier's defense was just too porous.

Lemoore quarterback Ty Chambers marched the Tigers down the field in under a minute after Frontier's back-to-back scores, then led three more touchdown drives after the break for good measure. Chambers finished with 326 passing yards, 101 on the ground, and four total touchdowns as Lemoore cruised to a 56-21 win.

"Lemoore's a heck of a team," Frontier coach Chris Bandy said. "I think they were a lot faster and a lot more physical than we thought they were on film. They're a really good football team, and we didn't play our best game of the year.

"When you're going against a really great team, you gotta play your best game of the year to have a chance, and we didn't give ourselves a great chance, but I'm just super proud of the kids and what they've accomplished."

The Titans forced a pair of turnovers by Chambers — one a pick off the hands of Kobe Green, another a fumble recovered by Devin Cockren when Chambers tried an unusual lateral. But the former drive ended on a punt after a brutal sack and the latter on a failed fourth-and-15.

"A play here, a play there and we're right back in the game," Bandy said. "But you know, the problem was we just couldn't get off the field on defense."

Frontier has been in shootouts all year and the offense showed flashes of that same ability Friday night. Statler threw all three of the Titans' touchdowns, two to Cockren and one to Tapia, but even though Frontier was playing from behind all night he totaled just 205 yards and threw a pair of picks.

The Titans' most costly turnover came on their opening drive of the second half, when Statler found Cockren deep down field for a 55-yard gain but the receiver was stripped and Gustavo Rea-Huizar came up with the ball for Lemoore.

The Tigers relied on their passing game and experienced most of their success through the air, with Demel Turner and Preston Scott catching touchdowns from Chambers, but running backs Anthony Garcia and Andrew Moench posted a pair of scores each to help Lemoore break 50 points for the fifth time this season.

Even as Bandy noted that his program had accomplished one of its winningest seasons ever, he also acknowledged that the Titans saw their year end in the semifinals for the second straight time. Last year they fell 21-14 to Bakersfield High.

The wealth of younger players who received significant playing time for Frontier this year, especially on defense, provides cause for optimism going forward.

"They had to grow up fast," Bandy said, "and hopefully, you know, the growing pains will make them better, and we're going to be counting on them for a lot of years to come."

Reporter Henry Greenstein can be reached at 661-395-7374. Follow him on Twitter: @HenryGreenstein.