Taft at Tehachapi

October 30, 2009

Warrior running back Michael Lowder #31 scampers for a few yards in the Warriors thrilling 16-7 win over the Taft Wildcats
Friday night at Coy Burnett Field. The Warriors improved to 3-0 in the SSL play. Photo by Rod Thornburg, The Bakersfield Californian

Tehachapi Takes Over Control of SSL
With Win Over Taft, 16-7

Posted October 30, 2009 by Zach Ewing, The Bakersfield Californian

TEHACHAPI -- In dire need of a big play and Its vaunted ground game stalled, Tehachapi went where few Warriors have gone before: To the air.

Senior quarterback Chris Rush converted two huge passing plays to lift Tehachapi to a late touchdown and a 16-7 victory at home against Taft that puts the Warriors squarely in the driver's seat for the South Sequoia League title.

"We finally threw the ball a little bit," Tehachapi coach Steve Denman said. "Kid made a great throw, and kid made a great catch. Taft's a great football team. They took us right down to the wire."

After a cerebral connection from Rush to Travis Farewell put Tehachapi in scoring position late in the game, the quarterback hit Zach Maravigli for an 18-yard touchdown on fourth down-and-9 with 3:54 to play. Cory Lange intercepted Taft quarterback Hunter Liljeroos on the next play from scrimmage, effectively sealing an enormous win for Tehachapi (7-1, 3-0 SSL).

"Biggest win of my life," said Rush, who finished 4-of-7 for 118 yards passing. "We lost to Taft three years in a row, our class (in underclass games), and to beat them senior year, this felt like a championship."

If it weren't for Rush's heroics, Taft (6-2, 2-1) might have ground out a 7-6 victory and come away from the mountain a winner for the first time since 1992.

Instead, the Wildcats lost their eighth straight road game to the Warriors.

The teams traded touchdowns in the second quarter, but Tehachapi, minus kicker Jake Reimer because of injury, failed on a two-point conversion attempt. That left the Wildcats up 7-6 for most of the game. Taft even had several opportunities to add to the lead, starting two drives on Tehachapi's side of the field that ended without points.

"Every time we were moving the chains, we screwed up," Taft coach Steve Sprague said. "There's no doubt about it. We can't complain about weather, we can't complain about field position. We didn't push them around, and that's what we're used to. No one to blame but ourselves."

Still, Shirreffs ran for 120 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries, and the one-point lead held until Tehachapi took the ball midway through the fourth quarter. Then, with Jesse Olofson and the ground game unable to get out of first gear against Taft's physical defense, Tehachapi coach Steve Denman tried something else.

Rush rolled out to his right and looked for junior tight end Travis Farewell on a seam route. When Taft safety Cody Shirreffs rotated over to cover him, Farewell broke off his route to the sideline. Rush found him open for a 44-yard gain down to Taft's 19.

"We've probably got one of the smartest quarterbacks in Kern County," said Farewell, who also caught a 42-yard touchdown pass in the first half. "I just go to the ball. ... I looked back, and I saw that he was in a scurry, so I was like, 'Just throw it up.'"

Olofson worked hard for 96 yards on 26 carries, but he was stuffed twice after Farewell's big catch. Rush threw incomplete on third down, and Tehachapi called timeout to set up the biggest play of its season to date.

With Taft's coverage swarming to the right to cover Farewell, Maravigli slipped out to the opposite side and was wide open.

"The corner had been coming across all game, and we sucked that guy over," Rush said. "I was just praying that (my pass) got there."

Touchdown Tehachapi, more mountain magic, and after the interception, Taft was left only to rue its missed opportunities.

"The defense did fine for 44 minutes," Sprague said. "But it doesn't take 44 minutes to win a game; it takes all 48."

Tehachapi has road games left at Wasco and Arvin to seal the school's eighth SSL title since it joined the league in 1992.

"We're proud of our kids, that they could rise to the occasion there in the fourth quarter," Denman said. "... They were patient, and when they had to make a big play, they did. And that was the difference in the ballgame."

And so the quarterback got to be the hero, a rarity in Denman's Wing T offense.

"We throw when we have to," Rush said, "and tonight we had to."

Warrior defender Travis Farewell #9 works to bring down Taft runner Brice Royal #44 Friday night as Tehachapi rallied
in the 4th quarter to defeat the Wildcats, 16-7. Photo by Rod Thornburg, The Bakersfield Californian

Rising To The Top
Mountain Magic Takes Key SSL Victory Over The Cats'

Posted October 31, 2009 by Tom Shea, The Tehachapi News

Taft had all the momentum coming into a pivotal South Sequoia League match-up with the Warriors, including the nod as the favorite to win the game by various media outlets.

But when you factor in the mystique of playing football on the mountain, you can never count out Tehachapi.

The Wildcats came into the contest with one of the top rushers and defenses in Kern County. But in the end, Tehachapi served up a thrilling 16-7 win at home and another long bus ride home for Taft.

The fourth quarter told the story, with the Warriors down 7-6 and needing a miracle on fourth-and-nine on the Taft 18 yard line.

Electing to go to the air, Tehachapi (7-1; 3-0 SSL) had Zach Maravigli wide open down the left hash mark. With the home crowd holding their collective breaths, Chris Rush laid down a perfectly timed rollout pass for a touchdown and the Warriors first lead of the game.

“I wanted it, I wanted it so bad,” said Maravigli. “After I caught it, when you hear the crowd just go crazy, there’s nothing like it. It’s the best feeling in the world.”

The touchdown was the exclamation point on a brilliant night for Rush, who had a season best 4-7 for 118 yards and two scores.

“This game felt like a CIF championship. To play them in front of our home crowd and have our team pull through was just amazing,” said Rush.

Two big tide-turning plays for Tehachapi came between Rush and Farewell, who teamed up on two completions for 87 yards, including a two point pass completion after the second score.

“Travis and I have a connection on the field and we are able to read each other,” Rush said. “On the first big play I saw that the safety bit and I needed to go outside and he saw that too. He just made a huge catch in both halves and that really helped us. The line just really did great as well, I had great protection all night long.”

Other standouts on offense included Jesse Olofson carrying 26 times for 96 yards, Michael Lowder with 39 yards on nine attempts, and Kash Knudson hauling in a 13 yard catch.

On defense, Drew Howell had seven total tackles, Austin Herman had four tackles and a fumble recovery, and Cory Lange had three tackles and a key interception on a Wildcat drive after Tehachapi’s second touchdown. Adam Bullard also registered a safety in the final seconds of the contest to ice the win.

The pressure-packed game behind them, the Warriors are all alone in first place in the SSL with another key game against Wasco coming this week.

“We are excited to come out on top of a game like this, but we don’t want to share the title this year,” added Rush. “We’re going to go into the Wasco game with the same mindset as this one. We need to be ready.”

Upper left, Warrior Max Clark picks up yardage against a tough Taft defense. Clark had been out of the Warrior lineup for three
games due to an injury. Upper right, Taft's star running back Cody Shirreffs #21 rambled for 120 yards and 1 TD run against
the Warriors. Both Travis Farewell, #9, and Cameron King, #55, try to track him down on this play. Farewell and King were
credited with eight tackles each against the Cats'. Photographs by Dan Gillam, The Tehachapi News.

1st2nd3rd 4thFinal
Taft  0  7   0  0  7
Tehachapi  0  6   0 10 16

The Scoring:

Second Quarter:

Taft – Shirreffs 9 yard run (PAT kick good) 10:28
Teh – Rush to Farewell 42 yd. pass play (PAT run failed) 9:03

Fourth quarter:

Teh – Rush to Maravigli 18 yd. pass play (Rush to Farewell PAT pass) 3:54
Teh - Safety 0:05

Taft vs Tehachapi Statistics

First Downs1011
Passing Yards16118
Total Yards204286

Individual Statistics:

RUSHING--Tehachapi: Olofson 26-96, Lowder 9-39, Clark 6-23, Maravigli 1-6, Rush 2-4.
Taft: Shirreffs 31-125, Liljeroos 3-31, Watts 2-16, Rivera 3-8, Gant 1-5.

PASSING--Tehachapi: Rush 4-7-0-118 Taft: Liljeroos 1-4-1-16

RECEIVING--Tehachapi: Farewell 2-87, Maravigli 1-18, Knudson 1-13. Taft:Smith 1-16

Varsity – Tehachapi 7-1 (3-0 SSL), Taft 6-2 (2-1 SSL)

JV – Tehachapi 32, Taft 27
Frosh – Tehachapi 0, Taft 14