One piece of advice former Tehachapi head coach Steve Denman gave his predecessor Doug DeGeer was to not panic. Keep everything in perspective, Denman told DeGeer as the first-year coach navigated through a 1-5 start to the season due in part to a tough out-of-league slate.

“We tried to just stay the course,” DeGeer said.

He did just that and one month later his No. 5 Warriors will host No. 12 South at 7 p.m. on Thursday in the first round of the Central Section Division III playoffs. DeGeer’s found success, including a share of the South Yosemite League title, in the first season for Tehachapi without Denman since 1982. Now he’s hoping for his first playoff win.

“You just never know what to expect first year and all doing things a little bit differently,” DeGeer said. “... It’s definitely worked out well especially after how everything started out.”

DeGeer knew he had a talented group left from last year’s team that earned an SYL title. His focus: Don’t crash the boat. He felt some pressure trying to replace a coach that had racked up 301 wins.

This season turned out strangely similar to Denman’s last. The Warriors played the same non-league schedule and started out the year 1-5 again. And like last year Tehachapi is riding a four-game winning streak into the playoffs. Seniors Connor Timm and Garrett Curry have led the way for the offense with 536 and 409 rushing yards, respectively. Both have scored five touchdowns.

DeGeer is expecting a tough game against South and for its players to be “flying around.” It’ll be a special night for the rookie coach finishing out his debut year.

“We’re definitely happy to have a home game right out of the gate,” DeGeer said. “... That’s always to our advantage up here.”

Jon Mettus can be reached at 661-395-7389. Follow him on Twitter at @jmettus

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