Tehachapi at Bakersfield High Drillers

Friday, November 3, 2023

A. J. Anderson #4 pulls away from a BHS defender Friday night in Bakersfield. Anderson had 19 carries for 83 yards;
one pass reception good for 62 yards; and scored 1 TD. The Warriors now travel to Visalia to play CVC-Visalia
  (Photo by Rod Thornburg, The Bakersfield Californian.

Warriors Stay Unbeaten With 35-14 Win Over
BHS In DII Playoff Opener

Posted by Ron Stapp, The Bakersfield Californian on November 4, 2023.

Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic and a canceled 2020 season, the Tehachapi football program was in need of a reset.

The Warriors had considerable success during a 35-year stretch with legendary coach Steve Denman that ended when he retired in 2017
following 301 victories, seven section titles and 14 league championships.

But the program was just 3-17 in its previous two years before current coach Kris Krempien was hired in the summer of 2021.

Three years and two league titles later, undefeated Tehachapi is looking to take things to another level, and that journey gained
momentum with a 35-14 victory over No. 8 Bakersfield High on Friday night at Griffith Field in the opening round of
the Central Section Division II playoffs.

“It feels awesome,” Krempien said of the victory over the storied BHS program that has eight state championships and 37 section
titles on its resume. “I remember when I first moved to Tehachapi, driving through Bakersfield and seeing the school with ‘The Driller Way’
on the gym and just thinking ‘I’ll bet they’re pretty good at football.’ So to finally get a chance to come down here
and to play them, and beat them the way we did, feels great.”

Tehachapi senior quarterback Jacob Root threw three touchdown passes and the Warriors, led by senior linebacker Mike Jones,
held Drillers standout running back Brison Abbott to just 50 yards rushing on 19 carries.

“Defensively, the main goal all week was to stop No. 2 (Abbott), and he didn’t get in the end zone … we had him
pretty contained,” Krempien said. “We got them out of their game, obviously they went to throwing the ball (a lot).
So ultimately we did what we wanted to do and we were able to close them out.”

No. 9 Tehachapi (11-0), which is 21-2 the last two seasons, will travel to face top-seeded Visalia-Central Valley Christian (10-1) in
the D-II quarterfinals on Thursday night. All games will be played a day earlier due to Friday’s Veterans Day holiday.
The Cavaliers defeated No. 16 Stockdale 43-7 in their first-round playoff game on Friday.

“It’s definitely a big challenge,” Jones said of playing CVC next week. “We’ve never been challenged like this, from 9 years old until now,
but I think our team is willing to accept it. Our team loves playing teams that are ranked higher than us.
It actually gives us fuel and we play better when we’re the underdog. But CVC is a good school and we’re going
to come out and see what we can do and give them hell.”

The Drillers (6-5) moved the ball 68 yards on eight plays to score on the opening possession of the game, capped by a 15-yard
touchdown run by senior fullback Drahcir Mackey, but Tehachapi controlled most of the game the rest of the way.

“They just did a heck of a job stopping our run game,” Bakersfield coach Rashaan Shehee said. “We pride ourselves on being able to
run the ball and we didn’t execute in the passing game well enough … We didn’t move the ball well enough
and we didn’t stop them.”

The Warriors scored on three of its next four drives, while holding BHS scoreless until the final seconds of the first half.

Trailing 21-7 after Root connected with Jacob Betancourt on a 36-yard scoring pass with 52.8 seconds left in the first half,
Bakersfield countered with a big play of its own just 38 seconds later.

Following a 15-yard run by Abbott — the longest run of the night for the junior who entered the game with over 2,078 yards rushing and
23 touchdowns, Harvey Rogers made a leaping catch on a pass from senior quarterback Ryan Iniguez and ran into the end zone
to trim the lead to 21-14 at the break.

Iniguez threw for 259 yards on 14 of 24 passing, including eight for 129 yards to Isaiah Richards, but the senior quarterback was also
intercepted twice — both by Carter Kolesar — that led to Tehachapi touchdowns.

Tehachapi had the Driller quarterback under pressure all night, sacking him three times and forcing him to throw on the run or with a
defender in his face. Leo Gonzalez had two sacks, eight hurries and eight tackles, and Levi Hart added a sack.

With the ground game struggling to move the ball, Richards was one of Bakersfield’s biggest weapons. He had a 28-yard catch on the Drillers’
opening scoring drive and made a diving, one-handed grab for a 33-yard gain on the final play of the
first quarter to highlight his night.

But the interceptions were quickly turned into points for the opposition. Tehachapi’s first pick came just three plays into
the second quarter with the game tied at 7-7.

After Root was sacked to set up a third-and-12 at Tehachapi’s own 38, senior AJ Anderson turned a short pass into a touchdown,
working himself around the corner along the BHS sideline and sprinting 62 yards to give the Warriors the lead
for good, 14-7 with 7:56 left in the first half.

“They’re undefeated for a reason,” Shehee said. “And they came in here and played their brand of football.”
The Drillers then moved the ball across midfield, but Abbott came up short on a fourth-and-one from the Warrior 45. Coming up short
was a pattern all night for BHS, especially in short yardage situations.

It was a quiet night for Abbott, with the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Jones assigned the primary responsibility of shadowing the speedy 5-8,
154-pound BHS back, who rushed for more than 200 yards in six games this season, with highs of 319 yards in a
loss to Bakersfield Christian and five touchdowns in a win over Ridgeview.

“With Mike Jones at middle linebacker, all things are possible,” Krempien said. “They got there on their opening drive, they
came down the field and it took a long pass play to get there, but again, we try to get team’s to beat
you in ways they’re not comfortable doing, and that’s what we tried to do and ultimately that’s what we did.”

After turning the ball over on downs, BHS got the ball back just one play later, when Anderson fumbled trying to fight for a
first down after a 9-yard gain and Rogers recovered.

Bakersfield moved the ball to the Warrior 27 before facing another fourth-and-one, and Tehachapi’s defense held again,
this time stopping Brenton Brown for a 1-yard loss to regain possession.

“Defensively, I’m always doing my best to fly around, but I wouldn’t be able to do any of that without my guys up front taking on blocks
and stuff like that, so I’m really thankful for them.” said Jones, a first-team BVarsity All-Area linebacker
last season, who had eight solo tackles and 11 overall. Andrew Aguirre also had 11 tackles and Tyler Lombardi
added 10. “Just a lot of film study, working on drills, but a lot of work with the defensive tackles, getting in sync with them.”

Kolesar, who was also 5-for-5 on extra points as his team’s placekicker, intercepted his second pass to help Tehachapi regain
momentum at the start of the second half after BHS forced the Warriors to punt for the only time in the game.

Eight plays later, Anderson scored on a 7-yard run to build the lead to 28-14 with 5:49 left in the third quarter. Anderson finished
with a game-high 83 yards on 19 carries, while Jones added 73 yards on carries, including a 1-yard
scoring run that tied the game at 7 with 2:10 left in the first quarter.

After the Drillers turned the ball over on downs again — this time at their own 37 — Tehachapi needed just five plays to cap
the game’s scoring with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Root to Aguirre in the back of the end zone with
2:15 left in the third quarter.

Root threw only nine passes, but of his five completions, three went for TDs. He also rushed for 52 yards, with the only
blemish coming on a late interception by Rogers.

They just believe,” Krempien said of his team. “There’s just something special about this group. These kids have been buddies since
they were little kids so there’s never a sense of doubt in the locker room before a game or
at halftime, they just believe in themselves, they believe in what we do and they’re really just a great group,
and I see no end in sight for these guys.”

1st2nd3rd 4thFinal
Tehachapi  7 14   14  0 35
BHS Drillers   7  7   0  0 14

Tehachapi vs BHS Statistics

First Downs   12   10
Rushes-Yards  36-231   
Passing Yards   142   259
Comp-Att-Int  5-9-1  14-24-2
Total Yards  373  
Punts  1-35.0  
Penalties  7-80   11-85

Individual Statistics:

RUSHING — Tehachapi: AJ Anderson 19-83, Jones 9-73, Lombardo 1-2, Root 4-52, King 2-21, Aguirre 1-0.
BHS: .

PASSING — Tehachapi: Root 5-9-1-142. BHS: Iniguez 14-24-259.

RECEIVING — Tehachapi: Anderson 1-62, Aguirre 2-36, Bettencourt 2-44.
BHS: Richards 8-129.

Varsity Records: Tehachapi 11-0 BHS Drillers 6-5