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With school back in session, the glow of Friday night lights leads into the excitement of game days on Saturday for Tehachapi Youth Football & Cheer.

The Tomahawks kicked off the 2019 season Saturday, Aug. 24, hosting the first of six home games, welcoming Pride and Freedom of Bakersfield. As the stars and stripes gently waved in the breeze above, below stood 10-year-old Ashlynn Leibold with graceful arms signing as the star-spangled banner filled the stadium.

Freshmen Tomahawks took to the field in what would be the first competition for many. With a 100-yard playing field, freshly painted lines and men with whistles wearing black and white, these young athletes took on the challenge against Pride. Giving up two first half touchdowns, the defense was able to clamp down on the Pride and shut them out in the second half.

“We have some things to work on and are excited to put everything together next week,” said head coach Chris Bowman. With an offense unable to put together a scoring drive, the freshmen defense held the Pride to 14, Tomahawks 0.

First-year head coach Cesar Meza led his sophomore team onto the field, the outcome a 42-0 victory over Pride. With an onside kick recovery, immediately followed by a long touchdown run, the first two plays set tempo and energy.

“Different kids stepped up and got the job done,” said Meza. “Overall, I’m proud of our first game and hope to continue this momentum into the following week.”

Junior varsity Tomahawks were fired up and ready for game one versus Pride. The defense set the tone on the Pride's first drive with a strip and long touchdown run and continuously fought to keep the offense in great field position. Though the offense seemed to struggle at times, big plays kept them in the game with four touchdown drives to shut out the Pride 32-0.

In the final competition of the day, varsity Tomahawks had an impressive first showing against Freedom of Bakersfield.

“The boys came out and battled hard,” said varsity head coach Rod Michael. “They were tested early and fought back. We have a great foundation to start from and excited for the upcoming week.”

First battle was won, Tomahawks 26, Freedom 14.

On Saturday, Aug. 31, Tomahawks welcome Thunder of Bakersfield. Kick-off time for freshmen is 10 a.m., sophomores at noon, junior varsity at 2 p.m. and varsity at 4 p.m. The fields of the Tomahawks are located within Benz Visco Youth Sports Park.

Jenn Michael is Tehachapi Youth Football's director of off field operations.