In arguably their most complete football game of the season, the Tehachapi Warriors came up one play short of their first win in 2019 as the Independence Falcons scored on a 35-yard touchdown pass with no time remaining and kicked the ensuing point after to defeat the Warriors 23-22 in Bakersfield Friday in the opening night of South Yosemite League play.
The Warriors (0-6, 0-1 SYL), coming off a bye week, trailed 16-15 with under five minutes to play and drove the field 85 yards, taking advantage of Independence penalties and a big fourth down and nine conversion to Trent Adams to set up Jacob Tye’s three-yard touchdown push. Tehachapi led 22-16 after the PAT but the Falcons would take over at their own 35-yard line after the THS kickoff trickled out of bounds.
The Falcons (1-5, 1-0 SYL), working with one timeout, managed to work their way into Tehachapi territory and call timeout with 1.3 seconds remaining to set up the game winning play. The Warriors brought pressure, but quarterback Isaiah Jones rolled to his left and managed to find Zarek Williams in the back corner of the endzone on a jump-ball pass for the tying score.
The extra point sealed the win for Independence, who managed to have several big plays bounce their way Friday, including a fourth quarter touchdown pass that was tipped by both Tehachapi defenders and Independence receivers before being caught in the endzone by Justin Coley, which gave the Falcons the 16-15 lead at the time.
Tehachapi scored first in the game on a seven-yard touchdown pass from Tye to Tyler O’Brien, but a missed PAT gave them a 6-0 lead. The Warriors would score on the next possession when Antonio Garcia sacked Jones in the endzone for a safety and 8-0 lead. The Falcons responded with a pair of quick scores in the second quarter, first an 18-yard touchdown pass with 30 seconds left in the period to make it 8-7 Warriors before the Falcons took advantage of a Tehachapi fumble on the ensuing kickoff.
Zach King appeared to be clearly down on the play before losing the ball; however, the officials didn’t blow the play dead and awarded the football to Independence after a long discussion. That uncertainty by the officiating crew would cost Tehachapi three points as the Falcons ended the half by converting a 40-yard field goal for a 10-8 lead at the break.
The Warriors responded in the second half with a King seven-yard TD run and a 15-10 lead at the end of the third quarter. Unfortunately for Tehachapi, the ball started bouncing Independence’s way in the fourth quarter while the Warriors defense struggled to limit the impact of Jones and Williams, who managed to lead the Falcons to the last-second win. Both teams managed late fourth-quarter drives in the back and forth affair that went the way of Independence.
Tehachapi will stay on the road this week, heading to Bakersfield Christian to face the Eagles at 7:30 p.m. The Warriors return to Coy Burnett Stadium on Oct. 18 hosting Golden Valley for Homecoming.
Independence 45, Tehachapi 8 (Final JV game of the season)
In an odd turn of events, the junior varsity season has been ended after already small participation numbers combined with injuries and eligibility issues gutted the Braves’ roster. As a result, the players will be split between the varsity squad and the frosh/soph team to complete the season. Not including this week, since Bakersfield Christian does not have a freshmen team, the Indians will play Friday evenings at 5 p.m., prior to the varsity games.
Independence 34, Tehachapi 7
The Falcons scored on their first two plays on offense, taking advantage of a Tehachapi fumble for a 21-yard touchdown run on the next snap before taking an early 14-0 lead with a 50-yard touchdown run on the next possession.
Tehachapi’s Juan Tirado was responsible for the lone score for the Indians scoring from five yards out in the 4th quarter. Tehachapi plays at Kennedy High School this Thursday at 5 p.m. The Indians will then begin playing on Friday nights prior to the varsity game beginning with the homecoming matchup against Golden Valley.