Tehachapi at San Joaquin Memorial - Fresno

December 10, 2010


The Tehachapi News:  Heart of a Champion: Warriors Capture 11th CIF Section Championship!
The Bakersfield Californian:  Warriors Ride 97 Yard Scoring Drive To Win Division II Title
The Fresno Bee:  Tehachapi Edges Memorial For DII Title, 13-10
Tehachapi vs San Joaquin Memorial Game Boxscore & Statistics

Zach Timm #34 is surrounded by teammates after accepting the CIF championship plaque in last Friday's 13-10 win
over San Joaquin Memorial. It is the 11th section title for Tehachapi in school history. Photo by Tom Shea, The Tehachapi News.

Heart of A Champion
Tehachapi Captures 11th Section Championship

Posted on December 13, 2010, by Tom Shea, The Tehachapi News

When the Warriors were awarded a sixth seed for the CIF playoffs four weeks ago, you just had a feeling that it might be a good omen for Mountain Football.

In 2007, Tehachapi Basketball won the CIF championship as a sixth seed. In 2008, Mountain Football won the CIF championship as a sixth seed.

And now, the Warriors have turned their sixth seed into glory once more, winning an improbable CIF Central Section Division II championship over San Joaquin Memorial, 13-10 last Friday night.

"This just proves that no one can underestimate Mountain Football," said lineman Niko Taliulu. "We had to go on the road, we were the underdog through the whole (playoffs) and we pulled through."

Tehachapi’s win did not come easy, with plenty of in-game drama fitting for a title ambiance.

The visiting Warriors got up early on San Joaquin Memorial right from the opening kickoff, with Michael Lowder taking a return 72 yards to give Mountain Football early momentum at the Panther 21 yard line.

Two plays later, Marcus Curiel punched in the first score of the night on a 23-yard touchdown run to put the Warriors up, 7-0. Curiel finished with 85 yards on 12 carries.

“We were just pumped for this game and I just wanted us to get a good start on special teams,” said Lowder. “It was great blocking up front and I just ran as hard and fast as I could.”

For the majority of the rest of the game it was a battle of field position and defense, with Tehachapi recording three punts, a punt block, an interception and three big turnover on downs deep in the redzone to keep the Panthers off the scoreboard through three quarters of play.

Troy Mathews, Adam Bullard, Zach Timm and Niko Taliulu had big tackles to thwart potential touchdown runs on three goal line stands.

"We just brought everybody and we were fired up, we were so fired up," added Taliulu. "We were able to get (in the backfield), get turnovers and we were able to stop them."

Cory Lange also had a key pass tip on fourth and goal at the two yard line at the start of the third quarter to keep the Warriors lead in tact.

"We made an adjustment at halftime to (the passing) formation and I just stuck my hand out and was able to knock it down," said Lange.

In the final period, San Joaquin Memorial (10-4) was able to make their own adjustments to score 10 unanswered points and take the lead, 10-7.

Then, with their backs against the wall at their own three-yard line, Tehachapi set up a final drive opportunity with less than six minutes remaining for a chance to capture glory.

In the clutch, senior runningback Phil Rhodes came through, playing through the pain of a floating rib injury suffered two weeks ago against Sunnyside and overcoming a fever and strep throat just this past week.

Through heart and grit, Rhodes got the crowd into a frenzy with a 44-yard completion in double coverage on a perfectly thrown pass from quarterback Levi Garrett.

"It was a great throw by Levi. He put it where just I could get it, a great throw," said Rhodes. "We played a great team (last Friday). It was anyone's game and we're just so happy we could bring this one home."

Tehachapi (13-1) then orchestrated five more running plays to eat up the game clock, putting the ball at the San Joaquin Memorial four-yard line with 57 seconds remaining.

Rhodes then got the call again, recording his final carry as a Warrior with an emphatic four yard run for the winning score, putting Tehachapi up 13-10 with 51 seconds to go. Rhodes finished the evening with 76 yards on 14 attempts.

"I just followed my lead block, put my shoulder down and went for it," said Rhodes. "Our whole team just wanted this win and we did everything we could to get it."

Tehachapi's defense sealed the win in the final seconds, with Michael Lowder intercepting a pass on fourth and 15 on the ensuing Panther's drive. Lowder also had six tackles in the game, while Ray Cross, Cameron King, Troy Mathews, Bullard, Lara, and Wyatt Vance had five tackles apiece to seal the win.

"The only thing we were saying was to just have to have heart," said Taliulu. "We just pushed it and we had great heart on that drive and in the game."

With the win, Tehachapi captures their 11th title in school history and third CIF championship in the last four years.

"It was the best feeling in the world to win this game. I don't know how to describe it," added Lange.

The story of the night was the stellar Warrior defense which stopped the highly potent Memorial offense multiple times
inside the red zone. The Warrior offense mounted a rally in the final minutes of the game to pull out a 13-10 win over the Panthers.
Photo by Rod Thornburg, The Bakersfield Californian.

Warriors Ride 97 Yard Scoring
Drive To Win Division II Championship

Posted December 10, 2010, by Jeff Evans, The Bakersfield Californian

FRESNO -- When Tehachapi High football fans think of the 2010 season, they'll think of "The Drive."

The Warriors took a page out of the game-winning drives history of the NFL Hall of Fame quarterbacks, marching 97 yards over the final four minutes to score the winning touchdown with 51 seconds left to rally past Fresno-San Joaquin Memorial 13-10 for the CIF Central Section Division II title.

Tehachapi, which concluded a 13-1 season, got the game-winner when senior Phil Rhodes slammed through the right side of his line for a 4-yard touchdown run.

A 49-yard punt by Memorial's Mike Vinuela put Tehachapi at its 3-yard line with 4:29 remaining and the Warriors out of time outs.

"We knew we had to do it on that drive," said senior quarterback Levi Garrett.

When Rhodes rolled through the right side of the Tehachapi line for a 21-yard gain on the first play, the Warriors had momentum.

On the next play, Garrett heaved a pass downfield that Rhodes pulled down with Memorial defenders Johnny Johnson and Titus Garrett draped all over him. That 44-yard gain gave the Warriors a first down at the Memorial 32 with 3:20 remaining.

"I was knocked down, so I didn't see it," Garrett said. "I waited to hear the crowd. If they went crazy, I knew he caught it. They went crazy."

"Levi made a great throw," Rhodes said. "He put it in a place where only I could catch it."

Five more running plays ate up the clock and got Tehachapi to the 4-yard line with 57 seconds left. Rhodes took the handoff, swept behind the right side of his line and put his head down as he was hit at the 2. He pushed forward into the end zone for the game-winner.

"The line just opened up a big hole," Rhodes said. "Our fullback Marcus Curiel was the lead blocker and he opened up a hole. I just put my shoulder down and went for it."

"That was a sweet one," said Tehachapi coach Steve Denman. "Our defense played great all night. And when we needed big plays at the end our offense came through."

It was the 11 th section championship, and eighth in the Central Section, for the Warriors. Tehachapi was the Div. III winner in 2007 and 2008.

Tehachapi's offense was stopped most of the night. The Warriors scored three plays into the game on Curiel's 23-yard run, which was set up by a 72-yard opening kickoff return by Michael Lowder. Travis Farewell's PAT made it 7-0.

The Warriors had a chance to take a 10-0 lead late in the first quarter after Cory Lange blocked a punt that gave Tehachapi possession at the Memorial 18. But Farewell's 25-yard field goal attempt was wide left.

That was Tehachapi's last scoring chance until the game-winning drive.

It remained 7-0 through three quarters with Tehachapi surviving several Memorial scoring chances.

In the second quarter, the Panthers reached the Tehachapi 12 and 1 on separate drives but turned the ball over on downs. They also turned it over on downs after reaching the Tehachapi 7 in the third quarter.

Memorial finally broke through on the first play of the fourth quarter when junior quarterback Jordan Stallworth ran in from 2 yards out and Andrew Antognoli tied it with an extra point.

Three plays into Tehachapi's subsequent drive, Garrett threw an interception, giving the Panthers possession on the Warriors' 38. Six plays later, Antognoli's 27-yard field goal gave Memorial a 10-7 lead.

Tehachapi's hopes looked bleak when a drive starting with 8:07 left ended with the Warriors turning the ball over on downs at the Memorial 41 with 5:58 left. But the Tehacahpi defense forced a 3-and-out, and that set up the 97-yard game-winning drive.

Warrior running back Marcus Curiel #21 twists and turns to churn out a few yards against a tough Memorial defense.
Curiel scored a touchdown early in the game to give the Warriors a 7-0 lead. Photo by Rod Thornburg, The Bakersfield Californian.

Tehachapi Edges Memorial For DII Title

Posted December 10, 2010, by Jeff Davis, The Fresno Bee

FRESNO - They came down from the mountains of Tehachapi, a newcomer to Division II football, and rose to the heights of an 11th section school championship.

The Tehachapi Warriors, given no respect with a sixth seed, put together a 97-yard drive in the final minutes and rallied past No. 5 Memorial 13-10 Friday night on Phil Rhodes' 4-yard touchdown run with 51 seconds left in front of an overflow crowd at Memorial's stadium.

"We can't control the seeding, just deal with it, and the kids did," said Warriors coach Steve Denman, whose team beat Garces 34-21 in the semifinals to avenge its only defeat.

Tehachapi finished 13-1 and the title marked the school's fifth in the Central Section to go with six in the Southern Section.

The Warriors prevailed in large part by keeping Memorial quarterback Jordan Stallworth in check. The talented junior, who had been wreaking havoc on opponents in the playoffs, passed for 81 yards on 10 of 16 completions, and ran 18 times for 77 yards with a 2-yard scoring run.

Memorial (10-4) was trying to win its seventh championship and took a 13-10 lead on Andrew Antognoli's 28-yard field goal with 8:14 left. The teams exchanged possessions and Tehachapi took over on its own 3 with 4:29 left after Panthers punter Mike Vinuela uncorked a 49-yard kick.

"This was our final drive. We had to do something," said Rhodes, who came up with big play after big play to get it done.

Rhodes broke off a 21-yard run on first down. Next play, Levi Garrett found Rhodes deep on a pass into double coverage at Memorial's 22 for a 44-yard gain and another first down.

"I got hit and didn't know what happened," Garrett said. "I just waited on the ground for the crowd to start screaming. They did, and the biggest smile came on my face."

Said Rhodes of the tough catch: "Levi threw it to the only place where I could get it, over my left shoulder."

The Warriors drove to the 4 for a first down, and from there Rhodes broke outside into the right corner of the end zone for the go-ahead score.

Memorial took over after the kickoff on its own 18, but Michael Lowder intercepted Stallworth around midfield as the clock ran out, sending Warriors fans pouring onto the field.

"My team gave me everything they had. But we didn't convert in the red zone and that was the difference," Memorial coach Anthony Goston said.

The Panthers can only wonder what if star running back Chris Brown had been in uniform. Brown, who had rushed for 21 touchdowns, sustained a sprained shoulder in the last regular-season game and sat out the playoffs.

But Stallworth stepped in at quarterback after Bryant Cummings sustained a concussion on Oct. 15 and the Panthers won five of their next six to reach the section championship.

"We asked Jordan to do a lot of different things for us -- run, throw, catch passes," Goston said, "and he's probably the reason we got here."

1st2nd3rd 4thFinal
Tehachapi   7  0   0  6 13
SJM  0  0   0 10 10

The Scoring:

1st Quarter:

Teh - Marcus Curiel 23 yd run (Travis Farewell kick)

4th Quarter:

Mem - Jordan Stallworth 2 yd run (Andrew Antognoli kick)
Mem - Andrew Antognoli 28 yd field goal
Teh - Phil Rhodes 4 yd run (kick blocked)


First Downs1016
Passing Yards5581
Total Yards231248

Individual Statistics:

RUSHING - Tehachapi: Rhodes 14-76; Curiel 12-85; Garcia 5-16; Garrett 3-(-1).
SJM: Johnson 1-3; Garrett 10-27; Vinuela 13-60; Stallworth 18-77.

PASSING - Tehachapi: Garrett 2-6-1-53 SJM: Stallworth 10-19-1-81

RECEIVING - Tehachapi: Lange 1-11; Rhodes 1-44. SJM: Smith 1-6; Garrett 1-1; Chuhlantseft 3-29; Johnson 5-45.

Varsity – Tehachapi 13-1, San Joaquin Memorial 10-4