Warrior Guest Column
Former Warrior Reflects On 1989
CIF Championship Game vs Carpinteria

Submitted by Sal Murguia, THS Alumnus of 1993
Posted on November 18, 2009

Every summer my family would venture to the Central Coast and go camping at the beach. As a child living in an isolated town, the excitement was overwhelming as I took in the sites of our trip. I always loved to see the ďThe ColossusĒ as we passed by Magic Mountain entering the 126 Highway. Listening to U2 and Ozzy while passing through Fillmore and Santa Paula, knowing that we were getting close!

Then at last, gazing in awe at the glistening water once we got into Ventura and headed north on the 101 freeway. I would take in the smell of the cool, salty air, the overcast skies, and the waves! After about 20 minutes up the coast we would make our exit and pass through a little non-descript town.

And every year I would see a high school football field and a sign that said, ďHome of the Warriors.Ē And every year I would think, ďHmm, I wonder if theyíre any good?Ē Along with, ďWouldnít that be funny if we ever played each other?Ē Little did I know at the time, I was staring at Tehachapiís Greatest Rival!

Tehachapi Footballís Greatest Rival!

Itís been 20 years since they took the field. At this point the Warriors were getting ready to play in their third straight CIF Championship game! And I canít reiterate how difficult that was when you had 4 games to play in the playoffs and no such thing as the best record receives the home field advantage.

If you think Iím talking about a team from the Mountains wearing Green, Black and White, youíre sorely mistaken. Iím talking about a team from the coast wearing Red and White, the Carpinteria Warriors. The only program that has come up to the Mountain in Mid-December and completely manhandle a Tehachapi team in a CIF final and the only team that stood in the way of the 1989 Tehachapi Warrior Team!

Something beautiful was transpiring on the football field in 1989. Two programs at the peak of their powers were getting ready to dance for a CIF Title for the third straight year! Tehachapi versus Carpinteria, the mountain men versus the beach bums both named The Warriors battling for football supremacy!

For Tehachapi, this was the peak of Coach Denmanís first generation of power I players; a perfect blend of homegrown toughness and new school talent. This team was loaded! They had all world wide receiver Lavail Johnson and the great Anthony Kelly at Running Back leading the charge. This team was so loaded Eric Young, (The Eric Young!) was a fullback! The greatest running back in Tehachapi history wasnít the best tailback on this team! I have never seen a Tehachapi Football team as gifted as the 1989 team. They literally had it all and they were destined for a CIF title!

In any other year, they would have waxed whoever they faced. They beat a great Valley Christian team in Cerritos with a triple over-time thriller! (Probably the most exciting and unbelievable finish to any game Iíve seen). They punched a Montclair Prep team (with three D1 athletes in the backfield) in the gut on the Mountain! But in the final, they had to get through Tehachapiís greatest foe, The Warriors of Carpenteria led by the great Coley Candaele at quarterback!

Candaele was a stud! He had a gun for an arm, with great mobility, and most importantly, he was tough! As a sophomore he led his Carp team up to the bitter, cold Mountain in the 1987 final and smacked around Tehachapi to a 27 to nothing route! It seemed Candaele and his Warriors were destined for a back to back championship when Carpinteria jumped out to a 14 to nothing lead in the 1988 final at Santa Barbara City College. But two scores in the fourth quarter by Tehachapi, (One a 42 yard interception return for a Touchdown by Dante Patterson with 3 minutes left in the game!) proved that Candaele and his Warriors were indeed mortal.

In what was probably the most controversial yet appropriate outcome in Warrior history, the 1988 final ended in a tie. Both teams proved to be each otherís equal and everyone knew they would return to settle the score the following year. You saw Frazier and Ali, The Red Sox and Yankees, The Celtics and Lakers! High school football had the Tehachapi Warriors versus the Carpinteria Warriors!

And in 1989 they met each other again on a cool December night at San Marcos field in Santa Barbara and played in the most anticipated game in Tehachapi Warrior History! In most years leading to this point, Tehachapi was the underdog. The small team from a small town, but not this year! This 89 team from the mountain was the only team in Tehachapi History that could walk into Carps home turf and be favored to win!

They played a different brand of Mountain Football! A brand of speed and power! An offense that could beat you through the air, grind it out on the ground, or bust it open with a big play! A defense with athletic speed that matched the traditional brute force! They had players that could score from anywhere on the field and thatís what made the 89 team so great!

When these two teams clashed for the third straight time, it was a magnificent site! Like two titans, both Warrior teams played each other to a standstill! Anthony Kelly was running his heart out! Ryan Grimes was playing out of his mind lofting passes to Lavail Johnson! I was there standing on the sideline and I couldnít believe the hitting that was going on. My brother Benito sent the Carpinteria running back into the sideline with a thundering pop that sent shivers down the spines of the 8000 plus that witnessed it! This was football at its best!

Tehachapi found themselves with a 21 to 17 lead deep into the 4th quarter. At this point Lavail Johnson was closing out his final game as a Warrior with 3 touchdown receptions. Tehachapi had Carpinteria on the ropes, but Candeale had the ball with time still left on the clock. The quarterback from Carp completed a crucial third and long play with less then 2:00 minutes left in the game. Tehachapi again stiffened up on defense and forced Carpinteria to a fourth and short, but a critical offsides penalty against Tehachapi kept the drive alive.

You give a good quarterback these opportunities and theyíll usually take advantage of them. Candaele was a great quarterback and he did just that. With :17 seconds left in the game Candaele completed a perfect fade to his receiver in the back corner of the endzone. Like a cold blooded assassin Candaele stuck a dagger into the heart of Tehachapi and itís fans as they took the lead 24 to 21.

To our Warriors credit, they didnít give up. With one last gasp Grimes completed a pass and to Eric Young! The Tehachapi great busted loose and made a valiant effort to score! Eric made it down to the 15 yard line before he was cut down! With the clock showing zeros, time had run out on the Tehachapi squad and their chance to be crowned champions had expired.

It hurt watching the Carpinteria team and their fans celebrate. It hurt watching my friends and my brother go down in defeat. But as I feel now like I did then, they had nothing to be ashamed of. These two teams were equal in every sense of the word, but one them had to lose and itís unfortunate that it was our team from Tehachapi. Like I said before, this 89 team was special, the best collection of talent Iíve ever seen in Tehachapi. And who knows, maybe if they played the game in Tehachapi the outcome would have been different.

Their opponent? Well, Iíve witnessed Tehachapi face off against numerous programs over the years and Carpinteria was our greatest foe. Coley Candaele who was also an accomplished runner went off to the Mecca of Track Oregon University. He returned to Carpinteria, coached for some time at his alma mater and now leads a successful program at Vista Murrieta High School.

As for the rivalry? You couldnít ask for a better competition between two schools and the fans were treated to a final dance two years later. Tehachapi and Carpinteria faced off one last time in the 1991 CIF Final, but this time it was a little bit different. Both squads didnít have the firepower as in previous years and it was quite the surprise that they met each other again. Thatís a testament to the programs and the players involved demonstrating grit and determination.

This was a bitter sweet event with Tehachapi saying goodbye to the Southern Section and it was only appropriate that Carpenteria was the opponent at the going away party. This was Tehachapiís sixth CIF Final in 7 years, itís 5th final in a row, and Carpinteria was their opponent for 4 of them. So once again, Carpinteria was standing in the way of a Finals Championship. And as a player in this game; I could tell you we wouldnít have wanted it any other way!

True to form, both teams slugged it out in a brutalizing competition at the same San Marcos Field in Santa Barbara! Again, both teams were playing each other to a stand still! Carpinteria was a physical opponent with a potent ground game, but Tehachapi countered with one of the best defenses in the state to slow them down. The score was tied 7 to 7 at halftime and it remained that way until midway through the fourth quarter.

Like in any close battle it was one play that changed a teamís fortune. In this case it was Carpinteria that took advantage of a great punt return and ultimately slammed the ball into the endzone to take a 14 Ė 7 lead. And thatís the way the score would remain until the final gun sounded. Once again our hearts were broken as Carpinteria walked away with the title. Our team said goodbye to the Southern Section coming up just short yet again. Was Carpinteria the better team? The scoreboard said so, but really there wasnít much of a difference and every participant in the game left with mutual respect for one another.

And that was the nature of our rivalry. Two programs, equal in every aspect of the game, taking turns punching each other! I played against some pretty good teams, but none matched the intensity, heart, discipline and class of that Carp team. Not Garces, not Bishop, no one!

Years have passed on but along the way I became quite familiar with that annual drive that my family made when I was young. With Santa Barbara becoming my adopted home town, Iíve had a lot of reminders of that old rivalry. I think of it every time I pass by that same San Marcos High School field next to the Turnpike exit going to my best friendís house. I think of Dante Pattersonís interception every time I pass by Leadbetter Beach and Santa Barbara City College.

And every once in a while Iíll pass by that non-descript town and I wonder what Carpinteria football looks like today? I know if they see Tehachapi, theyíd see the same old program with a different style of attack. But one things for certain, if Carpinteria kept up itís program the way Tehachapi has, the Warriors from the coast would give the Warriors from the Mountain their toughest fight. And it would be a great site to seeÖ

You can e-mail former Warrior Sal Murguia at salmurguia@msn.com