WASCO -- For three quarters, Bakersfield Christian gave undefeated Wasco all it could handle in Friday night's Central Section Division IV championship game.
But the Tigers' constant pounding of the line of scrimmage wore down the Eagles' defense and Wasco came from behind with two fourth-quarter touchdowns from Isaiah Sharp to pull out a 29-22 win at Wasco, capping a 13-0 season for the Tigers.
Wasco will learn Sunday if it gets a chance to compete in a state playoff game.
"Our guys worked extremely hard for four years and it showed tonight," said Wasco coach Russell Prado of his senior class.
Wasco is the only Central Section team that is undefeated this season.
"We went 13-0. We deserve a shot at the state (playoffs)," Prado said with Wasco's fans and players shouting their agreement. "Our boys deserved it."
The Tigers won their first section championship since 1953 and only the fourth in the history of the school.
BCHS (10-3) gave the Tigers all they could handle. In a regular-season South Sequoia League game, Wasco beat the Eagles 49-0.
"We knew they would give us a tough time,” Prado said. “This is a different team than it was seven weeks ago. Our guys just came out on top.”
The Eagles played a bend-but-don’t-break defense for much of the game, which kept them in it.
In the first half, Wasco drove from its 33 to the Eagles’ 20, from its 20 to the Eagles’ 15 and in the second half marched from its 30 to the Eagles’ 6. Each of those drives ended with Wasco turning the ball over on downs.
“That's what we were trying to do: Make them grind it out,” said BCHS coach Jerald Pierucci. “We wanted to keep the big plays away.”
But from the Eagles’ perspective, it all started to unravel at the end of the third quarter.
Casper Lopez broke loose for a 48-yard touchdown run with 1:05 left in the third quarter. A two-point conversion run by Sharp pulled Wasco into a 15-15 tie. BCHS came right back and scored on its next drive, with Hayden Kuchta scoring his second TD of the night on a 13-yard run with 11:08 left. Jake Fortnum's PAT made it 22-15.
But Sharp came right back moments later when he broke free for a 68-yard TD run, tying it 22-22 with 9:58 left.
The Eagles drove down the field to the Wasco 9 but turned it over on downs. The Tigers then went 89 yards, capped by Sharp’s 9-yard TD run with 3:00 left that broke the tie and proved to be the winning score.
BCHS wasn’t done. The Eagles drove past the Wasco 40 before Jake Thompson’s long pass near the goal line was intercepted by Terrance Grinner with 46 seconds left.
Thompson was hit as he threw the pass by hard-rushing Kris Aguilar, who had two sacks earlier, which made the pass float and making it an easy interception for Grinner.
“The main thing going through my head was not let him make the deep catch,” Grinner said, referring to intended receiver Josh Jackson. Jackson was effective all night, catching 10 passes for 189 yards.
“I’m just so proud of the whole team,” Grinner said. “We came out hard. The offense was good. The defense was good.”
Sharp had 265 rushing yards on 38 carries with three TDs. He had a 5-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
Kuchta added a 45-yard TD catch of a Thompson pass that opened the scoring and Thompson also threw a 2-yard TD pass to Matt Smith. Smith was the Eagles’ top rusher with 103 yards on 22 carries.
“For our team, it was a mental thing,” Pierucci said, referring to the obstacle of blocking out Wasco’s lopsided win over the Eagles earlier in the season. “We needed to not beat ourselves mentally like we did the first time we met.”
As the Eagles drove down the field in the final two minutes, Pierucci said he had one thought.
“I hoped we had one more left in us,” he said. “I would have gone for 2.
“Shoot. We were in there at the end. In the second half we gave up too many big plays. “