Senior running back Noah Whitlach dons the helmet as the Warriors hold their first practice in full pads.
Photo by The Tehachapi News.

Mountain Football Finally In Full Pads
As 2015 Season Looms Ahead

Posted by John Nelson, The Tehachapi News, on August 9, 2015

The pads have gone on. Let the games begin.

With some big personnel decisions still ahead, the Warriors finally got everyone in full pads for practice on Thursday night, Aug. 6. That’s when head coach Steve Denman has said he would be able to start making some of those decisions, including who would replace the Warriors' powerful 2014 running duo of Chris Rhodes and Willy Urciel.

Those two runners, particularly the 1,000-yard rusher Rhodes, accounted for about 70 percent of the Warriors’ rushing offense last season. Among the candidates to take over the bulk of the ball carrying in 2015 are seniors Noah Whitlach and Nick Ledesma and junior Keyron Scott. All three saw action in 2014.

Whitlach said it could be a case of running back by committee, at least for a while. “Defense is definitely our strength this year,” Whitlach said, “because we have a really young offense. We've got a lot of new people, but we all like each other and we're coming together as a team.”

As a sopohomore, Scott saw the most action of the three last season with 297 yards on 60 carries. Whitlach carried the ball 19 times for 103 yards, and Ledesma had just four carries in three games.

At the same time, Denman said that Jake Walters, last year's leading receiver on a team that threw the ball only 62 times in 11 games, would be back and “be a real leader for us.” The Warriors see their first action on Friday night, Aug. 21 when they travel to South High School in Bakersfield for a scrimmage that will also include Taft.

They open on the road the following week, Friday night, Aug. 28, at Foothill, and the Warriors' home opener will be on Friday night, Sept. 4 against Burroughs. The Warriors finished 6-5 last season, 3-2 and in a three-way tie for second in the South Yosemite League. They have higher aspirations for this season.

“We'd like to be league champions, and then see how far we can go from there in CIF playoffs,” Whitlach said. Last year, the Warriors lost 35-21 in the first round of the Central Section Division 2 playoffs to Redwood in Visalia.

The Warriors' first practice in full pads came, as usual, as part of a fundraiser for the local Moose Lodge. The lodge was selling buttons at the Farmer's Market to go see the team practice from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Coy Burnett Field. “They help us out, and we like to return the favor,” Denman said. “We'll catch some punts under lights in the last half hour of practice.”

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