Zach Ewing is the prep sports beat writer for The Bakersfield Californian.
He is providing season previews on all Kern County high school football teams.

School House Zach
Previews the 2009 Warriors

Posted on August 13, 2009, by Zach Ewing, Prep Beat Sportwriter, The Bakersfield California

Key Players: Drew Howell, sr, OL/DL; Nick Howell, sr, WR/DB; Jesse Olofson sr, RB/DB; Niko Taliulu, jr, OL/DL; Tyler Guyon, sr, OL/DL

Key Losses: Adam Mullen, RB/DB; Josh Strauss, RB/DB; Garrett Coontz, WR/LB; Derek Lange, RB/LB; Kurtis Knudson, QB

Offense: Somewhere back in the mountains, they’ve got a little factory, pumping out not coal or iron or oil but running backs that run like they eat all of these things for breakfast. Last year’s duo of Adam Mullen and Josh Strauss won’t soon be topped, but it’s no secret that the Warriors will probably have some more names you’ll see with big yardage totals by them in your Saturday morning Californian. This year Jesse Olofson will lead a running back by committee approach that more readily fits Coach Steve Denman’s vaunted Wing T approach. There’s also a competition in camp to replace Kurtis Knudson under center, led right now by senior Chris Rush.

Defense: Sometime in the past 20 years, the mountain folk added on to their running back factory with one that made specialized linebackers. (Or maybe it’s just great coaching. What do I know?) But here again, Tehachapi is replacing perhaps its two best players in Garrett Coontz and Derek Lange, who flew around the field with abandon for the last couple of years, winning Division III section titles with defense as much as with the Wing T. Whether the Warriors can ably replace those outside linebackers by midseason could determine their league-title hopes. The rest of the D, led by Niko Taliulu and Tyler Guyon on the line, looks stout.

Outlook: Denman has been around long enough — almost 30 years now — that he’s not going to get too up or too down with anything. That’s why when last year’s defending section champs started 1-3, he never panicked. Neither did his team, and it wound up 10-4 and section champs again. That attitude will come in useful again in ’09, with a loaded non-conference schedule and a team that will have to find itself just a bit at the start of the season. But here’s another thing I’m sure Denman has learned: Tehachapi’s going to be just fine. The Warriors know how they play and they know they’ll be successful. It might be a stretch to say that this somewhat inexperienced team can give the mountain a three-peat, but it wouldn’t really surprise me that much, either.

Quotable: “The last two years, we’ve had more speed than we’ve ever had. This year, we’ll be quick, but I don’t know if we’ll have the couple of kids who can flat run.” — Denman

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SSL Predictions For 2009
By Zach Ewing, The Bakersfield Californian

#1 Taft (5-0)
#2 Tehachapi (4-1)
#3 Bakersfield Christian (3-2)
#4 Wasco (2-3)
#5 Arvin (1-4)
#6 Shafter (0-5)

(Webmaster Note: All of the 2009 South Sequoia League teams were previewed by the Bakersfield Californian between August 7-13, 2009.)