The Warrior defense (in black) gets into position as Taft High school begins to run a play. The Warriors had a successful
scrimmage this past week in Taft against the Wildcats and the South Bakersfield Rebels. Photo by The Tehachapi News.

Warriors Live Scrimmage at Taft
Deemed A Success

Posted August 24, 2016, by John Nelson, The Tehachapi News

It’s one of head coach Steve Denman’s most oft-repeated expressions.

“You never know,” he’ll say.

Now, he knows.

The Warriors had their first dress-rehearsal for the 2016 season on Friday, Aug. 19, as they traveled to Taft
for a full scrimmage with both Taft and South high schools.

“Nobody got hurt,” he said, “so that was a good thing. Overall, I think we were happy.”

The scrimmage was held at 7:30 p.m. to try to avoid at least some of the heat.

It was a big plus getting his players that first contact with someone other than a teammate, Denman said, especially with just two weeks
remaining until their season opener on Friday night, Sept. 2, at Burroughs in Ridgecrest.

“Sometimes they react like a deer in the headlights,” Denman said, “but the kids reated well. You just never know.

“Even kids with experience, sometimes they’re on their heels a little bit, but for the most part, they were going
in the right direction, running downhill, usually had the right assignments.”

At least they weren’t standing around.

“They were going 100 mph,” Denman said. “You don’t want to make the mistake of just standing there.”

The Warriors resumed practice on Aug. 1 after a couple of weeks off, and they were
in full pads by Aug. 12.

“We were definitely flying to the ball,” Denman said. “We were seeing a few mistakes, but overall they were flying
to the ball and that’s a good sign.

“Offensively, there are some things to work on. We had some penalties that cost us, but the kids ran hard and for the most part
they were blocking the right guy – maybe not successfully, but at least they were getting
a hat on the right guy.”

Senior Paul Stephens and sophomore Chris Garcia took most of the snaps, although junior Luke
Soto also got in a few reps at quarterback.

Denman said Stephens, with the most experience, is the front-runner to start at Burroughs, but the job is still up for grabs.

“It’s pretty much down to the two of them now, Chris and the big guy, Paul,” Denman said. “We have some other places for Luke to play.”

Soto could be used at tight end and also will be a defensive back.

“The No. 1 thing is to get that leadership in the huddle,” Denman said. “The quarterback has got to make sure everybody is in
the right spot, and hold onto the ball. Good ball handling is a must.

“If they fumble from the center, it’s their fault. If they fumble in the handoff, it’s their fault. It’s always the quarterback’s
fault, as far as I’m concerned.”

The last two weeks before Burroughs will tell the tale, Denman said.

“We’re pretty happy with their progress so far,” he said. “We’ve got two weeks to get ready for Burroughs. It’ll be a grind and
hopefully they’ll keep improving.”

Warrior Head Coach Steve Denman

Football Preview: Major Milestone Looms for Denman
As Warriors Prep For 2016

Posted August 24, 2016, by John Nelson, The Tehachapi News

There’s a buzz around Warriors football camp this fall, and it’s not all about 300.

Head coach Steve Denman would prefer that none of it were about the number 300, but there it is — a rare landmark that sits only five victories away in Denman’s unparalleled coaching career.

Coming off a 7-3 season and a second-place finish in the South Yosemite League a year ago, the 2016 version of the Warriors varsity football team could be faster, more well-rounded, and just plain better than its predecessor.

The Warriors might have just the right blend of returning seniors and talented newcomers to get Denman to his magic number quickly, so that by season’s end, it’s nothing but a fond memory.

“It’s a number,” Denman said, “and I’m not a numbers guy. I have people who take care of statistics for me.”

As he begins his 35th year as Tehachapi High School’s head football coach with 295 career victories, Denman almost certainly will reach the 300-plateau this season. That would make him only the fifth head football coach in the state’s history with 300 wins.

“All we’re trying to do is win a game,” Denman said.

The Warriors chose not to play a game in Week 0 this season, so they’ll start their 2016 campaign on Friday, Sept. 2, at Burroughs. They play three straight road games to start, traveling also to Bakersfield Christian and Garces.

Then begins a series of four straight home games against Paraclete, North, Independence and East Bakersfield — a homestand during which Denman could well claim the landmark victory.

If the Warriors started their season 5-0, No. 300 would come on Friday night, Nov. 30, against North.

“I like playing at home, don’t get me wrong,” Denman said, “but when you start thinking about a certain number instead of the opponent that week, hey, we could go 0-10, and then we’d be having this same conversation a year from now,” Denman said.

Perish the thought.

Anyway, that’s almost certainly not going to happen, considering that in his first 34 years at the school, the Warriors have averaged more than eight victories per season.

And 2016 could be a good year — a really good year.

“We’ve got speed across the board, and as long as we put in the work, we’ll be strong,” said Keyron Scott, who led the Warriors with 1,351 yards rushing last year, despite missing the last game of the season with an injury.

Although still sidelined after off-season knee surgery, the senior Scott will no longer be the lone threat in the Warriors backfield when he returns to action in late September or early October.

“Last year, Keyron carried our offense,” Denman said. “This year, we’ve got some other kids who can step in and carry the ball.”

Among them are promising senior Zion Dean, a transfer from Oceanside, junior varsity newcomer Connor Timm, and seniors Anthony Powell, Chase Podratz, Philippe Vachon and Tyler Mata.

Even Z-back Troy Noda, more noted for his blocking, could get the call a few times.

“We can really spread it out now,” Denman said.

With two weeks to go before opening day, a four-way battle for quarterback seemed to be down to lefty senior Paul Stephens and athletic sophomore Chris Garcia, with the edge going to Stephens.

“Paul’s got the experience,” Denman said.

Denman also hinted the Warriors might be equipped to pass a little more now, although that’s never a priority in his Wing-T playbook.

“If we’re second-and-5 and come out throwing and make it third-and-5 – well, I’d rather be first-and-10, so if we’re going to throw, we’re going to have to be consistent,” Denman said. “Otherwise, we’ll go 3 yards and a cloud of dust.”

Defense has always been the backbone of Denman’s teams, and this year will be no different. Seniors Jackson Caudle and Tanner Herman return at linebacker.

“If we do our work and play the way we can, we should pick right up where we left off last year,” Herman said.

In the final two weeks of practice, Denman had a simple plan to help him sort out the remaining starting assignments.

“We’ll work on fundamentals, tackling, blocking, hit the sleds, and work on assignments and alignment on both offense and defense,” the coach said. “We want to make sure they all understand their assignments.”

Then, he’ll sit down with his coaching staff: 81-year-old Bill Carll, who coached Denman as a freshman player at Tehachapi; Pat Snyder, also the Warriors athletic director, who played for Denman, and Dennis Ruggles, who’s been Denman’s defensive coordinator since 1985.

And together, they’ll figure things out, just like they’ve been doing for 30-plus years.

“When we go to Burroughs,” Denman said, “we don’t want them thinking, just doing.”

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