Junior Marcus Curiel #21 sprints into the end zone in the first quarter against San Joaquin Memorial to give the Warriors a 7-0 lead.
The Warriors would rally in the fourth quarter for a come-from-behind victory over the Panthers, 13-10. Photo by The Bakersfield Californian.

Warriors: CIF Champions!

Posted on December 15, 2010, by Tina Forde and Lacey Moser, The Tehachapi News

Tehachapi's spectacular conquest of its CIF Central Section Division 2 rivals on a balmy December night In Fresno was all the sweeter because they were so evenly matched in the championship game.

The San Joaquin Memorial Panthers stalked the Warriors but in the end became the hunted as quarterback Levi Garrett drove the team down the field for the final touchdown and the win.

It was a bookend game for the Warriors, with its two touchdowns, one in the first two minutes and one in the last two minutes of the game.

In between those bookends, it was a fiercely defensive contest.

In the final seconds, the victory locked in, hundreds of Tehachapi fans flowed onto the field in joyful celebration to hug the ecstatic team members and bask in the sensation of it all.

Over on the San Joaquin side, all was quiet.

San Joaquin Memorial fans, if they stayed around, could only wonder who these strangers from the mountains were, a team new to the division who had never set foot on their fine, well-lit stadium before.

Graciously, the defeated hosts left the lights on so the strangers could mill about with their heroes.

Tehachapi fans and the team lingered on the field for more than half an hour after the game was over. It was a place of victory, turf conquered, opponents vanquished.


“It was fantastic,” said Tom Garrett, Levi's granddad. “It doesn't get better than that.”

It was the kind of a season that coaches yearn for.

“They just kept moving forward and never looked back,” said Levi's great- uncle Dan Garrett. “It was a great season for a dream team.”

“It was amazing and intense,” said 7th grader Bryan Cotta.

Sophomore Blake Waters said he liked the dramatic ending.

“The suspense was building while they were driving down the field,” Waters said.

“It was the best game ever,” said sophomore Austin Riddle.

“It was a great season,” said Ray Cotta, Bryan's dad. “It was the most intense we've had that I've seen. Winning isn't everything but it sure feels good.”

“It was a wonderful season, especially how we came back and overcame Garces,” said Randy Harris. “The team got better. This was a good team we played (San Joaquin Memorial). They're fast. We kept them corralled. That team (Warriors) does not quit.”

“It was a true championship game,” said long-time sports writer Dick Johnson. “They were two evenly matched teams. It couldn't have been much closer. The last drive we had was spectacular.”

“It was a typical Tehachapi hard-fought game,” said Buzz Wells. “They really put their all into it.”

The players were drenched in sweat by the end of the game.

Al Muro was on the field after the game to congratulate his grandson Niko Taliulu, a 6-foot, 285-pound lineman.

“He was completely soaked when I hugged him,” Muro said.”He must have had 10 pounds of water on him.”

The sweat mixed freely with tears as the magnitude of the victorious season swept over the team and fans. Rarely has a California CIF football team taken the championship the same year it’s been bumped up a division.

During the game, the Tehachapi crowd had been relentless in keeping up the energy level.

Home Depot employee Chris Rickheim, a 2008 graduate of Tehachapi High School who reports to Army basic training in January, ran back and forth in front of the bleachers with a megaphone exhorting the Warrior boosters.

“We need to get up and get loud,” he hollered until he was hoarse.

At halftime, “Mr. Football” Terry Edwards, who has attended 378 Tehachapi Warrior football games in a row, said both teams were tough but predicted Tehachapi would win.

“It might come down to whoever has the ball last,” he said.

And, with a brilliant interception by Michael Lowder that ended any chance the Panthers could score again, so it did.

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