Tehachapi quarterback Chris Llamas (#12) can't escape the tackle of Garces linebacker Tanner Henderson. 
(Photo by Felix Adamo, The Bakersfield Californian.)

Tehachapi Looks To Keep
Running Through Opponents

Posted August 11, 2014 by Trevor Horn, The Bakersfield Californian

TEHACHAPI -- All Chris Rhodes needs to do to learn about the rigors of being the lead running back for Tehachapi is to look across the table at family dinners.

His older brother, Phil, was the lead back who led the Warriors to the 2010 Central Section Division II title as a senior.

Finally given the chance to show his might in his final season this fall, Chris is ready to help lead the way as Tehachapi seeks the program's eighth consecutive season with at least eight wins.

"It means a lot to be able to be the one to come out here and be the one that they can go to and be the one they can rely on to get that extra yard or get that first down," Chris Rhodes said.

Rhodes also benefits from the opportunity to line up behind an offensive line that returns starters Trey Abarquez, Connor O'Neal and Rocky Radcliff.

"We are able to run the ball pretty consistently; that's been a big deal in Tehachapi for a really long time," Radcliff said. "We've got a couple guys on the line coming back this year (and) I think we're going to have a really good offensive line."

Gone are Skylar Valencia and Christian Terle, who combined for more than 2,000 rushing yards and 30 scores last fall. But coach Steve Denman said he likes what he sees this year.

"Rhodes will be the guy," Denman said. "We have a lot of running backs that will touch the ball. But he will be the guy who will carry a major part of the load. He's a real physical kid."

Tehachapi will be tested early in the non-league schedule with Burroughs and Centennial before playing in its first game as a member of the South Yosemite League, against Independence on Oct. 10.

The student section at home games may get even more festive this season, as O'Neal is not only a leader for the Warriors on the field, but also the student-body president.

"It's the best of both worlds, because being student-body president also, I know everything that's going on spirit-wise throughout the school," O'Neal said. "So I know how to help promote the games and get the whole school involved."

Denman feels the greatest attribute the team has this season is the attitude of the players. They have given the coach, now in his fourth decade at the helm in Tehachapi, a "recharge of my battery."

"We've got great kids," Denman said. "Great chemistry and good leadership with our seniors. But we've got great leadership from our juniors, too."

One of those juniors is Angel Garcia, who recorded 57 tackles as a sophomore in 2013. He'll be counted on to lead a defense that allowed 14.9 points per game last year and had five games where opponents scored 7 points or fewer.