The 2008 CIF Champion Warrior include #1 Justin Hansen; #2 Kurtis Knudson QB; #3 Jake Reimer; #4 Zac Austin; #5 Dan Rakowski WR; #6 Garrett Coontz; #7 Chris Rush QB; #8 Travis Farewell; #9 Derek Lange; #10 Kash Knudson RB: #11 Neal Herman; #13 Dylan Fralick; #15 Conrad Mattly; #16 Jason Kerns; #17 Noah Copus; #18 JJ Balkar; #21 Justin Perry; #22 Adam Mullen; #23 Matt Anderson; #24 Mark Recalde; #25 Josh Strauss; #26 Jesse Olofson; #27 Cal Weeks; #28 Brennen Davis; #30 Michael Lowder; #32 Nick Howell; #34 Austin Herman; #35 Jason Hail; #40 Cory Lange; #41 Jared Casarez; #44 John Cramer; #45 Tony Montes; #51 Yovanni Carrasco; #52 Vince Ortiz; #53 Clint Heinzler; #54 Dominic Chavarria; #55 Eric Harroun; #56 Cody Rogers; #58 Kevin Ruiz; #59 Drew Howell; #60 Niko Taliulu; #61 John King; #62 Travis Hall; #64 Steve Brass; #65 Jimmy Lopez; #66 Jeremy Blankenship; #67 Nate Moore; #70 Tyler Guyon; #71 DJ Rickheim; #74 Luke Mears; #75 Chance Lunstrum; #76 Luke Thompson; #77 Gene Wahlstrom; #81 Matt Bloom; #85 Chris Sepulveda; and Franky Rodriguez. Photo by Mike Duffy, Summit Photography
Season Review by Tom Shea, www.thswarriors.com
Tehachapi Wins Second Straight CIF Title
It had only been done once, but the 2008-09 Warriors proved that lightning (and thunder) can indeed strike twice.
Tehachapi’s run at two titles in a row came in dramatic fashion, shocking the central section by emerging from the No.6 seed in the Division III playoffs to capture their 10th CIF championship in school history, and first back-to-back since the 1951 and 1952 seasons.
In this era, the thunder (Adam Mullen) and lightning (Josh Strauss) were the nucleus of one of the most talented teams in school history, and memories to remembered for all-time.
The first game of the year drew some special recognition for Tehachapi, with a marked historic “Homecoming” atmosphere game against Santa Ana – Segerstrom. The game was the centerpiece for the 80th year celebration for Tehachapi High School, with a vast amount of legends honored from Warrior Football past. In the game itself, the Warriors bolted to a 17-0 lead and eventually cruised to the win behind the running of Josh Strauss, who had 160 yards and a score.
The next three games brought a gut check for Mountain Football, who saw their record fall to a surprising 1-3 with three straight losses against Garces, Frontier and Burroughs, thanks in large part to a hampered offense that had Adam Mullen sitting out with injury and a streak of bad luck that had Tehachapi losing by only a combined nine points.
Before league play began, Tehachapi got their footing on the ground against Rosamond, with Josh Strauss setting a new Warrior record with 304 yards rushing in one game, with the team needing no passing attempts en route to 455 yards of total offense.
The Rosamond win proved to be just what the Warriors needed, giving them a boost of confidence heading into the South Sequoia League season.
During league play one of the year’s most hyped games was to come in week 7, when Tehachapi and Bakersfield Christian would clash for a league championship. BCHS was led by blue chip quarterback Derek Carr, younger brother of current NFL player and no.1 draft pick David Carr.
The younger Derek would end his senior season with an amazing 4,067 yards and 46 touchdowns, accepting a full-ride scholarship to Fresno State. In the contest itself, Tehachapi suffered their final loss of the season, falling 40-35, but Kurtis Knudson also set a new throwing record for the Warriors, throwing for 305 yards against the Eagles to mark the most yards by a player in one game for Tehachapi.
Mountain Football torched the rest of the South Sequoia League with victories over Shafter, Taft, Wasco and Arvin led by the running of Adam Mullen and Josh Strauss, who were protected on the line of scrimmage from Vince Ortiz, Kevin Ruiz, Drew Howell, Dominic Chavarria, Niko Taliulu and Matt Bloom.
Tehachapi, sporting a 6-4 (4-1 SSL), felt the sting of their early season stumble by garnering only a no.6 seed in the CIF Division III central section playoffs, but the Warriors were true dark horses heading into the post-season, sporting one of the hottest offensive outputs in the section. Up first was a worthy test in the first round in no.11 seed Ridgeview, who opened up a 14-0 lead on the Warriors before Mountain Football took control of the game, scoring 28 unanswered.
“It was a physical ballgame. A real dogfight early on,” said Tehachapi head coach Steve Denman after the game against the Wolfpack. “(Ridgeview) had momentum and fortunately we were able to stay close and get back in it.”
Clawing back from the jaws of defeat, most section observers wrote off the Warriors for the rest of the playoffs with no.3 seed Golden Valley up next in the bracket.
However, running back Adam Mullen had other ideas, single handedly terrorizing the Bulldogs with four touchdowns, 169 yards rushing, 67 yards receiving and an interception. Strauss had a stellar game as well, finishing with 132 yards, while Knudson threw for 156 yards and two second quarter scores in the 48-24 thrashing.
"The runs are always more exhilarating, but we knew they were going to be up in the box so we thought we could throw on them," said Mullen. "It was the line that gave our backs the opportunity to make plays."
Up next for the Warriors was a long four-hour bus trip to Yosemite, the division III no.2 seed and a re-match of the 2003 section championship, which the Warriors won 14-10.
After a big second quarter, Tehachapi pulled away to stay in the offensive slugfest, 62-41, validating themselves as one of the most formidable offenses in the section with their wing-t attack.
Adam Mullen and Josh Strauss helped Tehachapi to an eye-popping 349 yards rushing and seven touchdowns combined, while Kurtis Knudson threw for three scores and 129 yards passing.
“Knudson did a heck of a job throwing the ball,” Denman said. “They had a lot of pressure on him. … When they put eight or nine guys in the box, you can’t block them all. I told Knudson, ‘Hey, we’ve got to win the game with you.’ He threw the ball well, on target — that was a big difference.” Yosemite coach Aaron Eames said his biggest surprise was how effective Tehachapi’s passing game proved to be. “The big plays he (Knudson) made surprised us,” Eames said. “We had guys covered and he still made the play. But (Mullen) was the difference in the game.”
Prior to the CIF championship, Tehachapi was an unsurprising underdog for the third straight week, but managed to show true heart and grit against no.1 seed Hanford and claim their second straight title, 21-14.
With fog rolling in just like in the 2007 championship game against Foothill, the eerily similar game conditions proved to favor the run-heavy Warriors, who flew on the backs of their runners Strauss and Mullen to 333 yards of total offense, and Mullen providing all three Tehachapi scores after spotting the Bullpups a 14-0 lead.
“To win this game every one of our kids needed to step up and execute their role,” said head coach Steve Denman. “We just told them not to give up. Keep plugging away. That was a very talented football team we played and our kids responded to the call.”
For the second straight year, Tehachapi reeled an impressive collection of statistics and awards at season’s end. In the statistical category, Josh Strauss (lightning) finished with 1,860 yards on 223 carries, 295 yards receiving and 15 touchdowns, while Adam Mullen (Thunder) had 1,639 yards on 191 carries, 235 yards receiving and 32 touchdowns. Mullen also established a new varsity player school record with 51 touchdowns and 312 points in a career and most touchdowns in a single game (six against Yosemite). Josh Strauss also became the fourth all-time rusher in school history with 3,490 yards, setting a new school record in rush yards in a single game (304), and completion yardage in a single game (203).
Kurtis Kundson also enjoyed one of the best seasons for a Tehachapi quarterback, passing for 886 yards on 45 completions and 10 scores, hitting Garrett Coontz for 220 yards and two touchdowns. Kicker Jake Reimer also had 68 points on the year, connecting on 59 PATs and three field goals.
On defense, it was a fitting end for linebacking standouts Derek Lange and Garrett Coontz, who both finished with an identical 147 tackles on the year, nine combined sacks and eight combined INTs. Drew Howell (135 tackles, three sacks), Jason Hail (132 tackles, two sacks, one interception), Eric Harroun (82 tackles, five sacks), John King (80 tackles, three sacks), Neal Herman (78 tackles, 1.5 sacks, three interceptions), Nic Howell (74 tackles, one sack, two interceptions), and Travis Hall (65 tackles, six sacks) also had outstanding seasons. As a team, Tehachapi set a new school record for points in a season with 460, averaging 33 points a game for the second straight year and an incredible 5,363 yards of offense, 65 touchdowns and 4,456 yards rushing (318 per game). On defense, they had 1,280 tackles, 38 total turnovers and 41 sacks in 14 games.
Earning All-League honors for Tehachapi were Matt Bloom (TE), Dominic Chavarria (OL), Garrett Coontz (LB), Travis Hall (DL), John King (DL), Derek Lange (LB), Adam Mullen (RB), Josh Strauss (RB) on the first team, Drew Howell (OL), Vince Ortiz (OL), Kevin Ruiz (OL) and Jason Hail (LB) on the second team, and Niko Taliulu (OL), Kurtis Knudson (QB), Eric Harroun (LB), Neal Herman (DB), Nic Howell (DB), Jake Reimer (K) honorable mention all-league.
Earning All-Area recognition was Adam Mullen (RB) and Josh Strauss (RB) on the first team, Garrett Coontz (LB) and Derek Lange (LB) second team, and Dominic Chavarria (OL), Kurtis Knudson (QB), Vince Ortiz (OL), Jason Hail (LB), Vince Ortiz (OL), Drew Howell (OL), Jake Reimer (K) honorable mention.
For a complete listing of Tom Shea’s 2008 “Weekly Warrior” articles on the team, please click here.
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LISTING OF SSL CHAMPS
|Sep 6||Segerstrom (Santa Ana)||17||12||H||Josh Strauss: 1 TD, 160 yds. rushing|
|Sep 12||Garces (Bakersfield)||21||27||H||Adam Mullen: 2 TD's, 176 yds. rushing|
|Sep 19||Frontier (Bakersfield)||18||19||A||Angelo Loli: 1 TD, 102 yds. rushing|
|Sep 26||Burroughs (Ridgecrest)||21||23||A||Kurtis Knudson: 1 TD pass, 100 yds. passing|
|Oct 3||Rosamond||34||08||A||Josh Strauss: 304 yds. rushing, new record|
|Oct 17||Shafter *||41||00||H||Josh Strauss: 2 TD's, 79 yds. rushing|
|Oct 24||Bakersfield Christian *||35||40||A||Kurtis Knudson: 305 yds. passing, new record|
|Oct 31||Taft *||41||13||A||Adam Mullen: 4 TD's, 165 yds. rushing|
|Nov 7||Wasco *||49||21||H||Josh Strauss: 3 TD's, 183 yds. rushing|
|Nov 14||Arvin *||24||18||H||Adam Mullen: 2 TD's, 236 yds. rushing|
* Denotes League Game
|Nov 21||Ridgeview (Bakersfield)||28||14||H||Adam Mullen: 1 TD, 138 yds. rushing|
|Nov 28||Golden Valley (Bakersfield)||48||24||A||Adam Mullen: 4 TD's, 169 yds. rushing|
|Dec 5||Yosemite (Oakhurst)||62||41||A||Adam Mullen: 6 TD's, 198 yds. rushing|
|Dec 12||Hanford||21||14||A||Adam Mullen: 3 TD's, 159 yds. rushing|