The margin for error just got a lot thinner for Central Valley's varsity football team following Friday night's 50-29 home loss to unbeaten Los Banos.
The reigning Western Athletic Conference champion Hawks need to win two of their final three games to secure their third consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berth under head coach Scott Edwards' guidance.
"I'd be surprised if we didn't make playoffs," Central Valley lineman David Serrano said. "We're a strong team. We're no joke."
The Hawks dropped to 4-3 on the year and 1-1 in the WAC standings.
The Tigers improved to 7-0 and 2-0.
Los Banos snapped Central Valley's 10-game conference winning streak dating back to the 2015 season.
"It hurts losing," Serrano said. "But we can't do anything about it. We have to move on and worry about the next game. I'm proud of our effort. We competed for most of the game.
The Hawks put a major scare into the Tigers.
Efrain Garcia's 17-yard touchdown run cut the deficit to 35-29 with 2:11 left in regulation.
Los Banos put the contest out of reach by scoring a pair of touchdowns after recovering onside kicks.
"We still had a shot at winning," Serrano said. "We kept fighting. We played physical and hard. They tried to run up the score because we beat them last year."
Central Valley contributed to its own downfall by turning the ball over twice on downs inside Los Banos' 20-yard line.
The Hawks were also penalized nine times for 55 yards.
"We have to execute better," Serrano said.
Central Valley lost despite piling up 431 yards and 18 first downs on offense.
Miguel Jimenez turned in his most efficient performance of the season at quarterback for the Hawks. Jimenez completed 15 of 29 passes for 256 yards and one touchdown.
Central Valley running back Estevan Barragan racked up 242 all-purpose yards and scored two touchdowns.
Barragan caught seven passes for 172 yards and one TD.
He carried the ball 18 times for 70 yards and one touchdown.
Hawk fullback Nasson Sanchez rushed for 58 yards and one TD on 17 carries and hauled in six passes for 61 yards.
Central Valley's defense allowed a season-high 608 yards.
Los Banos quarterback Anthony Caballero completed 10 of 17 passes for 354 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Daniel Guerrero caught four passes for 200 yards and three touchdowns.
Paul Calderon totaled 133 yards on five receptions.
Antonio Lopez ran for 186 yards and four TDs on 18 carries.
Barragan collected a team-high nine tackles in defeat.
Sanchez, Serrano and Anthony Ocanas made seven, six and five tackles, respectively.
Ryap Palecek and Phil Jackson both made four tackles.
"Without a doubt, they're the best team we've played all year," Serrano said. "They know how to execute and focus. They're disciplined. That's why they're undefeated."
Central Valley's final three WAC opponents are Pacheco, Patterson and Ceres High.
"We know none of the games are going to be easy," Serrano said. "We're not taking any team lightly. It's going to be a challenge."
Pacheco will travel to Ceres High this Friday to face Central Valley.
Kickoff slated for 7 p.m.
"We're not focusing on Patterson, Ceres High or playoffs yet," Serrano said. "We're focusing on Pacheco. Hopefully, we execute like we can."