The 2004 Warriors include #1 E.J. Muro, #2 Brian Frank, #3 Mason McLaughlin, #4 Matt Deger, #5 Zack Schlais, #6 Lance Lange, #7 Bobby Helfrich, #8 Tyler Hansen, #10 Jameson Freymond,
#11 Jake Smith, #12 Chance Dominguez, #15 A.J. Desenberger, #16 Josh Epstien, #18 Jason Pezzillo, #21 Robert Wright, #22 Jared Nichols, #23 Maurice Sales, #24 Devin Reyes, #26 Nelson Godschalk,
#28 Daniel Rivers, #30 James Esparza, #31 Paul Abarquez, #33 Marcus Coates, #35 Eric Tercy, #40 Dan Haycock, #41 Travis Ureno, #42 James Fowler, #44 Mike Faulkner, #45 Mike Barboa, #50 Evan Bullard,
#51 Issac Saavedra, #52 Chad Johnson, #53 Matt Fort, #54 Tommy O’Brien, #55 David Gall, #57 Jacob Mendez, #58 Alfonzo Villegas, #59 Jose Pulido, #60 Drew Gaeta, #61 Kris Morton, #62 Joe Steele,
#63 Nate Romines, #64 Ralph Curiel, #65 Shawn Morton, #66 Greg Harrod, #68 Josh Thompson, #70 Cael Cox, #71 Chris Dockery, #72 Trenton Pera, #75 Levi Kerstien, #76 Ryan Moran, #77 Allen O’Brien,
#78 Cliff Horn, #80 Ben Mathia, #81 David Gonzales, #85 Mike Papac, and #88 Stephen Reid.
Coming fresh off their first Central Section Championship in ten years, expectations were high for the Tehachapi Warriors in the South Sequoia League and the newly-formed Central Section playoffs that pitted the Mountain Men in Division III of a five-division format.
The South Sequoia League, which enjoyed a heated rivalry between Tehachapi and Garces since 1992, had a curtain close in 2003 with the Rams being moved to a re-vamped South-East Yosemite League.
The move by Garces gave way to a potentially new “top-team” showdown for the years to come, with Taft emerging as the 2004 SSL champion with a 5-0 league run.
The CIF division III playoffs also welcomed some new teams to the fold for Tehachapi to contend with, with Roosevelt, McLane, Delano, Caesar Chavez, El Diamante, Lemoore, Sunnyside, and Fresno joining into a playoff atmosphere that kept sequoia division teams Washington Union, Yosemite, Dinuba, Sierra-Tollhouse, Exeter, and Selma.
The change for Tehachapi had it’s high and low points throughout the season, but at year’s end, the Warriors had the distinction of enjoying their ninth consecutive winning season and playoff appearance in the 75th anniversary of Mountain Football.
Tehachapi opened up their fall docket on a rocky start against the defending Southern Section Division XII CIF runner-up Burroughs Burros in a 47-13 loss. Wyoming-bound QB Karsten Sween threw for 352 yards on 16 completions and three scores in one of the most brilliant offensive displays ever against a Tehachapi defense. The big game by Sween was the beginning of a year that ended with stats of 4,345 yards and 46 touchdowns and 8,107 yards and 86 TD’s in two years with Ridgecrest, along with 2004 CIF All-Valley player of the year honors. For the Warriors, Sean Finley provided the bright-spot on offense with his longest run from scrimmage for a score on a 79-yard run, collecting 148 yards overall to help Tehachapi amass 294 yards in the ground game. Dan Haycock would be the Mountain Men’s workhouse in the middle of the line, collecting 70 yards on 11 carries and a fourth-quarter score.
Tehachapi would draw their first positive notch in the win column a week later in a 41-21 drubbing over the Paraclete Spirits. First-year Spirit head coach Dan Lyon from St. Bonaventure High School could not find an answer to the Tehachapi depth in the contest, with the Warriors extending their overall series with Paraclete to 16-6 behind the 248 rushing yards of Sean Finley, which marked a 4th all-time best mark for a Tehachapi Warrior against an opponent in a single game. Tehachapi Junior QB Tyler Hansen would also provide a solid passing attack in the contest, throwing six completions for 102 yards to offset the rushing onslaught.
The roller-coaster ride of 2004 Warrior Football took a tumultuous down-turn in the next two games in a 20-17 loss to Foothill and 30-6 loss to Stockdale. The loss against Foothill was considered to be the central section’s upset of the week by most valley observers, likely contributed when the Warriors received a bruising blow when All-SSL linebacker Mike Faulkner was out due to injury in the contest. Without Faulkner, Foothill was able to establish momentum in the running game against one of the stingiest defense’s in the valley. Eric Valez and Jeremy Hernandez would find success in the middle rushing for just under 200 yards combined to post the upset, but the bigger numbers came from the Warriors’ side of the football, with Finley and Haycock combining for 228 yards on 36 carries.
A week later against Stockdale, Tehachapi would hang-tough early with the best team in Kern County and the eventual CIF Division I runner-ups, taking an early 6-0 lead in the first quarter with a Sean Finley 1-yard plunge. The balanced attack from the Mustangs would prove to be too much down the stretch however with Stockdale notching their second victory against Tehachapi in seven meetings.
Sitting at 1-3 going into week five against long-time rival Garces, Tehachapi found themselves in unfamiliar territory…taken off the Sequoia-Sierra top-10 poll as one of the valley’s top teams. The lack of outside recognition would not detour Tehachapi however, with the Warriors re-affirming their pride and heart to notch wins in five out of their last six games of the regular season.
The momentum of a strong season’s end began against the vaunted Rams, where Tehachapi has experienced heart break year-after-year at Garces’s home-turf, posting only a 2-8-1 record in the Ram’s backyard. Adding to the adversity going into the game was many of Tehachapi’s key players out of action for the contest, with the list including leading rusher Sean Finley, team co-captain Dan Haycock, and starting QB Tyler Hansen.
Tehachapi rallied to one of their most impressive wins on the year despite the question marks, with Jameson Freymond leading the way at quarterback with a one-yard QB-option in the first quarter and Zach Schlais and Mike Faulkner sustaining the ground game. Nelson Godschalk was mister-everything on defense, posting four tackles, a sack, a blocked punt, and a fumble recovery to help Tehachapi in the week five win.
The brutal pre-league schedule proved to be a fruitful output for Tehachapi in SSL play, with the Warriors posting a second place 4-1 league mark with key victories over their south sequoia foes. Tehachapi’s lone league loss would be to Taft, where a 12-0 halftime lead would diminish in the second half against the Wildcats in the road loss.
The other four league wins would boast dominating output by the Warriors, with Tehachapi amassing nearly 324 yards of total rushing offense against Wasco, Arvin, Shafter, and new SSL arrival Golden Valley. Against Wasco, junior defensive-end Chad Johnson provided a solid performance on the outside with five tackles and two sacks and Matt Deger two recorded safeties, while Zach Schlais provided the two-way threat with four tackles and two sacks at linebacker and a team-leading 109 yards on the ground.
Against Arvin and Shafter, Tehachapi would solidify its playoff positioning with two of their best offensive outputs on the year, scoring 11 times in the two games behind the steady ground game of Dan Haycock and Sean Finley, who would combine for 531 yards on 59 carries in the two contests.
Tehachapi would end their regular season with a strong second half against new Bakersfield school Golden Valley, with Finley scoring all of the Warriors’ four touchdowns and leading the team with 245 yards rushing.
With the pre-league and SSL schedule behind them, the Warriors would open their CIF Division III playoff run as the #5 seed behind #1 seed Yosemite, #2 seed Fresno, #3 seed Lemoore, and #4 seed Delano. Mountain Football would welcome in a home contest against Roosevelt-Fresno, the bracket’s #12 seed.
The outcome of the Warriors first playoff game was never in doubt, with Tehachapi amassing their largest point output on the year, including four Warriors collecting over 70 yards or more on the ground in a 49-33 win. The 478 total yards was also Tehachapi’s season high on offense.
The playoffs ended unceremoniously the following week, with the defending Sequoia-Large school champions falling to the Delano Tigers. Mike Papac would lead the team with three catches for 59 yards and Fernando Gracian scoring on a 20-yard run, but in the end it was the Tigers that would move on to the section semi-finals against eventual Division III CIF Champion Yosemite.
The Warriors’ individual accolades were far and deep for 2004, with seven Warriors being named to the All-SSL team. Players chosen included: Sean Finley (RB), Jose Pulido (OL), Ralph Curiel (OL), Mike Papac (TE), Mike Faulkner (LB), EJ Muro (DB), Trenton Pera (DL). Pera was also named a second-team All-Area selection on the defensive line, while Curiel, Faulkner, Papac, Muro, Finley, and Pulido were honorable mentions all-area.
Tehachapi accumulated 3,291 yards on the year on the ground and 523 yards passing. Leading stat leaders for Tehachapi was Sean Finley with 1,542 yards on 228 carries and 15 TD’s, Dan Haycock with 481 yards rushing and 7 TD’s, and Mike Faulkner with 6 touchdowns.
For a comlete listing of Tom Shea's 2004 "Weekly Warrior" articles, please click here.
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|Sept 10||Burroughs (Ridgecrest)||13||47||A||Sean Finley: 1 TD, 148 yds. rushing|
|Sept 17||Paraclete (Lancaster)||41||21||H||Sean Finley: 4 TD's, 268 yds. rushing|
|Sept 24||Foothill (Bakersfield)||17||20||A||Sean Finley: 2 TD's, 131 yds. rushing|
|Oct 1||Stockdale (Bakersfield)||06||30||H||Sean Finley: 1 TD, 117 yds. rushing|
|Oct 8||Garces (Bakersfield)||21||03||A||Mike Faulkner: 2 TD's|
|Oct 15||Wasco *||19||07||H||Robert Wright: 1 TD, 68 yds. rushing|
|Oct 22||Taft *||12||20||A||Mike Barboa: 1 TD Pass Rec.|
|Oct 29||Arvin *||35||28||H||Sean Finley: 171 yds. rushing|
|Nov 5||Shafter *||41||07||H||Dan Haycock: 3 TD's, 82 yds. rushing|
|Nov 12||Golden Valley (Bakersfield) *||28||07||A||Sean Finley: 4 TD's, 245 yds. rushing|
* Denotes League Game
|Nov 19||Roosevelt (Fresno)||49||33||H||Sean Finley: 2 TD's, 173 yds. rushing|
|Nov 26||Delano||07||28||A||Fernando Gracian: 1 TD, 54 yds. rushing|