After Cort Groathouse helped Lemoore High cap a 10-0 regular season two weeks ago, Tigers football coach Shannon Pulliam called his senior quarterback the MVP of the Central Section.
Groathouse didn’t do anything to change that opinion Friday night as second-seeded Lemoore opened pursuit of the Division II championship with the 6-foot-1, 175-pounder passing for five touchdowns and running for another to lead the Tigers to a 59-41 quarterfinal victory over No. 7 Redwood.
Lemoore (11-0) will host No. 3 Dinuba — a 34-13 winner over No. 11 Kingsburg — in next week’s semifinals. The Tigers have won one section title —Division III in 2005 —in the school’s 106-year football history.
“This guys makes it go. He’s taken it to the next level,” Lemoore coach Shannon Pulliam said. “He’s seeing things he didn’t see earlier in the year. He’s such a threat. There’s not many like him in the Valley. He’s hard to defend and is just carrying this team.”
Groathouse directed a seven-play, 77-yard, game-opening drive capped by a 24-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Davis to kick-start a Tigers offense that would explode for 529 yards.
And after Kyle Jue recovered a fumble deep in Lemoore territorry to stop Redwood’s ensuing possession, Groathouse busted loose for a 54-yard touchdown to put Lemoore up 14-0.
“It was all due to our defense. They kept giving us the ball and we kept scoring,” Groathouse said. “Coming out and scoring on our first possession put a damper on things for (Redwood). Then after scoring on our second drive, I knew we were rolling.”
Lemoore went ahead 28-0 early in the second quarter on Groathouse touchdown passes of 15 yards to Allen Perryman and 25 yards to Davis and Redwood (5-6) found itself in a hole it couldn’t recover from. The Tigers had beaten their West Yosemite League rival 28-14 on Sept. 26 in a game the Rangers led at one point 14-7.
“We were on a mission,” Davis said. “Our offense is playing great.”
Groahouse had more than 100 yards rushing and passing in the first half before finishing with 162 yards on the ground and 233 through the air.
“I think it was the playoff atmosphere,” Groathouse said. “We treated every play not as if it was our last, but as the play to make the game.”
And the Tigers’ playmakers all delivered. Running back Trey Perryman had 127 yards and a touchdown. Davis caught six passes for 141 yards and three scores, Marquise Love’s only reception went for a 21-yard touchdown, Allen Perryman added a 95-yard kickoff return to his touchdown reception and Spencer Lambert drilled a 35-yard field goal.
“All together we’re a unit,” Trey Perryman said. “There’s not one guy on this team you have to stop. Anyone can make a play at any time. I feel like we can compete with anyone.”
Redwood received 405 yards passing and three touchdowns from Adam Vance, 193 yards receiving and two scores from Rickie Garcia, and 158 yards rushing and three TDs from Jeremiah Johnson.