Former Warriors Chris Denman, Jon O'Brien, Jerad Romo, and Johnny Sullivan were named to the All-Tehachapi News 2000-2005 football team. The four players eventually played at Division I schools.
There have been many great players, particularly at the start of the new century, that have played their way into the record books for Tehachapi Warrior football.
While it would be impossible to name them all, The Tehachapi News recently took a stab at some of the memorable players that suited up for Mountain Football from 2000-2005 to form the “all-half-decade team”. This selection serves as just a breath of the great tradition that has been passed on year-to-year for Warrior football.
All who play for Tehachapi have (and deserve) the community’s admiration and respect, but here are a few that hopefully will jog some memories of recent season’s past. A comprehensive explanation of each offensive player selection is featured.
Anthony Scott – When recollection of Anthony Scott looms in the mind of those that remember his time as a Warrior, it surmises thoughts of a rebel…but not without a cause. Scott was lost for the first half of the 2003 season due to injury, but when he came back, he brought a ferocity that completely revamped the Warrior defense in his hybrid linebacker/defensive end spot. Scott was a first team All-SSL pick for the defensive line during Tehachapi’s championship season, finishing the year with 65 tackles, four sacks, two fumble recoveries, and a game-clinching interception in the CIF championship against Yosemite.
Andy Grantham – Grantham was as tough as they came when it came to trench fights. Grantham had a stellar year his senior year for Tehachapi, getting All-SSL first team honors after guiding Tehachapi to a 7-4 season in 2003. In his senior season, Grantham had 43 tackles, five sacks, and 26 quarterback pressures to help lead a stingy defense that was highlighted by holding the Garces offense, considered one of the valley’s best in 2002, to only seven points up through the fourth quarter. Grantham’s best game came against Delano, where he had five tackles, two sacks, and two pressures.
Dan Haycock – There would be no 2003 CIF championship without the service of the Haycock brothers, with Kris in utility and brother Dan in the scrum. Haycock was a dominant force for Tehachapi on the defensive line, joining Jon Andersen, Sean Finley, and Vincent Flores as the staple for why the Warriors won the CIF title. His junior year, Haycock finished the year as an All-Area honorable mention, finishing the season with 31 tackles and four sacks. His senior year in 2004, Haycock finished the season with 40 tackles, a sack, and an interception along with doubling-up as the team’s fullback.
Dustin McBride – The definition of cracking heads was re-defined when Dustin McBride came into the fold for Mountain Football. McBride will be remembered as one of the toughest to every suit up in kelly green and black, earning All-SSL first team honors his senior year in 2000 at both running back and defensive back/linebacker. In the CIF Championship in 2000, a McBride-led Warrior team pushed the 13-0 Sierra Chieftains to the limit, almost pulling out a victory in the last seconds before succumbing to defeat, 14-7. McBride went on to enjoy a successful couple of years at Antelope Valley College, setting a precedence of respect for Mountain Football in the program that opened the floodgates for future Warriors to come.
Bobby Unger – A first team All-SSL selection at linebacker his senior season in 2000, Unger was known for cracking all in his path with his shoulder pads and helmet…saving the questions for later. Unger joined fellow Warrior Dustin McBride on the junior college level at Antelope Valley College, and was a major cog on a team that went 10-3 and reached the CIF Championship finals.
Josh Christy – When it came to analyzing Josh Christy, nobody commanded more respect in sporting events, whether it was on the football field or baseball diamond. A second team All-SSL selection at linebacker in 2001, Christy capped a stellar Warrior career at linebacker for Tehachapi in 2002 by leading the team in tackles with 56 along with a host of quarterback pressures and bone-jarring hits. Christy was selected with fellow Warrior Jedd Ingraham as most valuable players of the team in 2002. At the conclusion of Tehachapi’s 2003 CIF championship in baseball the following spring, Christy elected to follow his talent in that sport, going on to play catcher for the Bakersfield Renegades.
Mike Faulkner – A three-year starter for the Tehachapi defense from 2002 to 2004, Faulkner will go down to be one of the best linebackers ever for Tehachapi. Faulkner led the team in tackles his junior season with 66, along with three sacks, an interception, and fumble recovery. His senior year, Faulkner again led the team in tackles with 53, despite missing part of the year due to injury. For his efforts in his tenure on the varsity squad, Faulkner was selected as a representative to play in “Blitz Bowl IV” along with teammate Trenton Pera, and later went on to play football the following season for the Bakersfield Renegades.
Kris Haycock – While Tanner Hutchinson might have been the engine that fueled the Warriors in the 2003 CIF Championship season, Kris Haycock was the spark plug, capping the CIF title with a pair of touchdowns, one on offense and one on defense, to help Tehachapi defeat the Yosemite Badgers in the epic battle. Electing not to play football his junior year, Haycock was a welcome addition to the Warriors his senior year, leading the Warriors in the 2003 season with five interceptions while also chipping in with 33 tackles. Haycock was an All-SSL first team selection at defensive back, and went on to pursue his collegiate eligibility playing baseball for Fresno Pacific University.
Derik Easttom – Fans, parents, and players alike cannot think of the name Derik Easttom without a somewhat bitter taste in their mouth, after the outstanding Tehachapi utility back was robbed of a touchdown in overtime of the 19-18 loss to Garces that would have given Tehachapi the win and the SSL championship. Despite the controversial and heartbreaking decision by the referees in that game, Easttom still had many accolades to celebrate in his 2001 senior season as a Warrior, elected to the first team All-SSL at defensive back. Derik was the heartbeat of the team his senior season, helping Tehachapi to a 7-3 record and 53 tackles and four interceptions at his safety position.
EJ Muro – A two-year varsity starter for the Warriors, EJ Muro was as consistent as they came in the Warrior’s secondary. Muro was a two-time All-SSL first team selection his junior and senior years in 2004 and 2005, finishing both seasons with a combined 63 tackles and four interceptions. Muro, coming from a long-line of Warrior legends, lived up to his marker and family name as one of the best secondary threats in Mountain Football.
Zack Harris – For Tehachapi to win the championship in 2003, a lot needed to happen, including a few elements unexpected. Along with the arrival of Vincent Flores on the defensive line, Zack Harris was one of those unexpected surprises for Tehachapi in their championship year. Harris, who transferred to Tehachapi from the Lancaster/Palmdale area, finished his lone-season as a Warrior with 29 tackles, and interception, and a fumble recovery. Harris will probably be remembered most for his ‘hit of the year’ on Yosemite wide-receiver Jon Blea in the CIF Championship game, setting the tone for Tehachapi in the eventual 14-10 win.
Jerad Romo – One of the most prolific quarterbacks in Warriors history, Jerad finished his career as a Warrior with 55 completions in 13 games for the Tehachapi offense in 2000, with his most memorable game a four-touchdown bootleg gem against Garces for the SSL championship in a 34-10 victory. Romo was a first team All-SSL selection at the conclusion of the 2000 season, and went on to play two years at Antelope Valley College, helping the Marauders with 1,829 yards passing and 14 TD’s in two seasons. Romo’s performance was good enough to land a full-ride scholarship to Southern Methodist University, where he guided the Mustangs to 2,380 yards passing 13 TD’s in his junior and senior years. Romo recently was given a look this past spring for the NFL, invited for a private workout with the Dallas Cowboys.
Tanner Hutchinson – The name that will be said in the same context as Liebengood, Young, and Ricker for many years to come, few have had the kind of prep-results that Tanner Hutchinson enjoyed in two seasons as a Warrior runningback. Hutchinson closed out his stellar Warrior career in 2002 and 2003 with 3,141 yards on 427 carries and 48 touchdowns. Hutchinson was an All-SSL runningback in 2002 and 2003, and a first team All-Area selection at utility at the conclusion of the 2003 season. Hutchinson set new school records in varsity career points (302), varsity career touchdowns (48), single game points (38), and single game touchdowns (6), helping Tehachapi to their eighth section title in school history in the CIF Large School Championship in 2003.
Sean Finley – As good of a linebacker as he was a fullback, Finley carried the Warriors on his back for a majority of the 2004 season, in spite of an injured shoulder suffered early in the year. An all-area honorable mention at fullback, Finley also gathered in All-SSL first team honors after posting 1,542 yards and 15 TD’s his senior season. Finley epitomized everything that meant being a Tehachapi Warrior, and was as tough as they came when it came time to strap up for gridiron action.
Matt Whitlock – A first team All-SSL selection in 2001, Whitlock was a major cog on an offensive line that helped Tehachapi to a league title and gaping holes for speed runners Derik Easttom and Gary Evans. Facing the fifth best team in the state in the Bakersfield Drillers, Whitlock helped Tehachapi to 280 total yards passing and rushing to almost pull off the upset of the year in a 14-6 loss to the Drillers. Whitlock went on to represent Tehachapi in “Blitz Bowl II” in 2003, and play collegiate ball at Division II Kentucky Wesleyan, where he helped the Panthers to 3,394 yards of offense his freshman year.
Tyler McCann – A member of the 2003 CIF Championship team, McCann helped Tehachapi to the school’s first 2,000 yard rushing performance by a single runningback (Tanner Hutchinson) since Eric Young’s 2,496 yards in the 1990 season. At season’s end, McCann was selected as a participant in “Blitz Bowl III” with fellow teammate Hutchinson, and went on two enjoy two successful years at Bakersfield College, helping the Renegades to two-straight Golden Empire Bowl victories. McCann was recently given a scholarship to join fellow central valley star Le’Andre Matthews at Missouri State, where he will finish up his two final seasons of collegiate eligibility.
Ralph Curiel – Probably the most well known offensive line name in the valley leading up to the 2005 season, three-year varsity starter Curiel was the heartbeat of the Warriors line from 2003-2005 and the program’s most consistent trench-bruiser. Curiel was selected as a first-team All-SSL selection for both the 2004 and 2005 seasons, paving the way for the Tehachapi wing-t attack in both seasons along with 2003 section championship squad as a sophomore. Curiel joined teammate Mike Papac in “Blitz Bowl V” in 2006 as Warrior representatives, and is currently playing collegiately for College of the Canyons, the pre-season #3 ranked junior college team in the state.
Trenton Pera – The “never quit” marker of Trenton Para was evident every time the ball was snapped. Pera played through pain, injury, and fatigue, only to get right back up and ask for seconds. A second team All-Area selection in 2004, Pera was also selected to the first-team All-SSL the same year and was an un-sung provider of depth during the 2003 CIF championship year. Pera was selected along with Mike Faulkner for “Blitz Bowl IV”, and went on to play for Bakersfield College in 2005.
Jacob Perry – Earning a second team All-SSL selection in 2000 and a first team All-SSL selection in 2001, Perry was known for solid run and pass blocking in two glory years for Tehachapi football. Perry was an instrumental component of one of the best offenses in Warrior history, racking up an astounding 33.3 points per game in 2000 and 433 total points, the most ever scored by the Mountain Football offense in a single year. Perry was one of the main reasons that ‘backs Dustin McBride, Danny Vandeventer, Derik Easttom, and Gary Evans made the highlight reel at the conclusion of every Friday night’s action with the gaping holes that he would make.
Richard Munoz – No one enjoyed a better display of yards after catch highlights than #1 Richard Munoz, a second team All-SSL selection in 2000 after a stellar season of 460 yards on 21 completions, a solid set of stats for a run-first team. Munoz went on to play college ball at Antelope Valley College after helping the Warriors to one of their best offensive seasons in school history.
Mike Papac – It seems inevitable that Papac will be playing Division I ball after his stint at Bakersfield College ends in 2007, after so much national interest was garnered for the tall and powerful tight end at the conclusion of the 2005 season. A three-year varsity letter-winner for Tehachapi from 2003-2005, Papac provided Tehachapi its most formidable receiving threat his junior and senior seasons, with 389 yards receiving and four touchdowns. Papac was a participant in “Blitz Bowl V” during the spring of 2006, and now is a regular starter on the Bakersfield Renegade offensive line in his first season of collegiate eligibility.
Chris Denman – A second team All-SSL selection in 2000 and a first team All-SSL selection in 2001, Denman was one of Tehachapi’s biggest receiving threats in 2000 and 2001, catching three touchdowns passes his senior year en route to Tehachapi winning two back-to-back SSL championships. Denman is in his final year of college eligibility as an offensive tackle for Fresno State University, where he has helped the Bulldogs to a 2004-2005 season MPC Computers Bowl win against no.18 ranked Virginia 37-34 OT and a 2003-2004 Silicon Valley Football Classic bowl victory against UCLA.
Johnny Sullivan – The most powerful kicker that Tehachapi has had in the new era, Sullivan was a welcome surprise to the varsity team in the 2000 season, helping the Warriors shore up their extra point attempt woes in a CIF championship berth. Sullivan went on to record 43 extra points his junior and senior seasons, and went on to the University of New Mexico, where he is in his final season of eligibility kicking for the Division I Lobos.
Jon O’Brien – The O’Briens have written the book on long snapping, and Jon has taken it to the next level after taking his skills in the position to the University of New Mexico, where he is currently in his senior season for the Division I program. Jon was a consistent force both on the offensive line and in long-snapping duties for Tehachapi, helping kicker Johnny Sullivan to crisp looks at the pigskin on extra point attempts and field goal tries. Jon’s talent was recently followed up by brother Tommy, who recently has accepted a scholarship to attend Northern Illinois University in his first year of collegiate eligibility for a similar role with that Division I team.
Kick Return / Punt Return
Gary Evans – Gary Evans, blazing speed and all, was a major component in putting a scare in the hearts of the Bakersfield Driller faithful in 2001 after cutting the #5 team in the state’s lead to 7-6 after a 68 yard touchdown run early in the contest. But even more impressive than Evan’s ability at runningback was his speed on kickoff and punt returns, an element Tehachapi had not seen since the graduation of 1998 star Eddie Brown. Evans had two kickoff returns for touchdown in a 40-15 victory over Shafter his junior year in 2000, and finished his 2001 senior season as an All-SSL pick for second team runningback. Evans went on to play football after his senior year for the Bakersfield Renegades.