Independence head coach Lucas Lucero took a running start and jumped on the top of a huddle of his players at about the 5-yard line as they chanted.
They got on one knee and Lucero yelled to them, “We’ve never had a seven-win season before.”
The group was just yards away from where the Independence defense made the final stop of the game to preserve a 27-22 win over East.
The game was played at East Bakersfield High on Friday.
East had driven down to the 13-yard line but a fourth down sack with 32 seconds left in the game ended any hope of an upset win. It was a 35-yard touchdown pass from Sergio Borreli to Ramon Henderson two minutes earlier that had given Independence the lead.
For the Falcons, it was their school-record seventh win of the season and fifth win in a row. They improved to 7-2 and 4-0 in the South Yosemite League. East fell short and dropped to 3-6 on the year and 0-4 in the SYL.
“It feels amazing what these kids have accomplished and everything they’ve gone through and worked hard for,” Lucero said.
Henderson’s night was bigger than just one grab. He caught 6 passes for 167 yards.
East quarterback Richard Lara made his first start since a game at West on Oct. 6. That game he only lasted the opening series before exiting due to a previous injury. Lara completed 7 of 17 passes for 112 yards on Friday night and led a valiant effort
“They gave us a dang good game,” Lucero said.
The head coach always tells his quarterbacks that their receivers are so fast they should overthrow them. Borreli came into the huddle and told Henderson to get open. The pass was high and lofted down the left sideline. It landed in Henderson’s hand as he crossed into the end zone.
Henderson jumped in the air and spiked the ball down in the end zone. A referee saw and threw his flag. Henderson said the official told him they were going to take the touchdown away.
Henderson crouched with his head in his hands and was “about to cry.” But the score counted and the penalty was assessed on the kickoff.
“Perfect dot,” Henderson said of the pass. “That was one of the best balls that I’ve ever seen. It went straight in my hands. I couldn’t do anything else with it but catch it.”
The score negated a 35-yard field goal from East’s Ahmed Baameur early in the fourth quarter that gave the Blades a 22-21 lead.
East drove 36 yards on its last drive — without starting running back Hahkeem Taylor who did not play the second half with an apparent injury — but could not get the final 13.
“With how our defense has been all year I would want it no other way than to put it on their shoulders to win the game for us,” Lucero said.
Independence had a 21-13 lead at halftime thanks to 255 yards of offense — 221 off the arm of starting quarterback Zecheriah Castellon.
Jon Mettus can be reached at 661-395-7389. Follow him on Twitter at @jmettus.