It wasn’t by design, but Tehachapi first-year head coach Doug DeGeer went back to what works best for the Warriors.

For years, Tehachapi (7-5) was predicated on a triple-option offense that stayed true to the ground game.

“It’s ground and pound. It’s pushing the rock and grinding the clock,” DeGeer said. “It’s controlling the ball. It really helps."

Despite a 1-5 start to the season, the Warriors are winners of six consecutive games. They are seeded No. 5 in the Central Section Division III playoffs, and take the field at No. 1 Tulare Western in Friday's semifinals at 1 p.m. at Bob Mathias Stadium. 

"That was the problem in the start of the season," DeGeer said. "We had deficiencies on offense and kept our defense out there too much.”

The game has an early start because the Mustangs share Bob Mathias Stadium with Tulare Union, which is hosting Dinuba in the D-II championship game at 7 p.m.

“It’s throws everything off schedule. But with this week, everything is different,” DeGeer said about the holiday week with no school in session.

Tehachapi has three running backs with over 100 carries this season, and quarterback Chris Garcia has nearly twice as many rushes (73) this season than pass attempts (43).

The big challenge this week for Tehachapi is defending the balanced offense of Tulare Western (10-1). The Mustangs throw the ball with efficiency, while also running the ball effectively.

“It’s a good challenge for our guys and our defense. Which has been really solid lately,” DeGeer said. “We need to make sure we are extra prepared for (the pass game). That’s the one part we have struggled with all year, is against the pass. We know that, and are trying to take the right steps to bolster our defense.”

Historic night for Shafter - Not only is this a monumental year for Shafter playing in the section semifinals for the first time since 2000, the lights in the stadium on Friday night will be the only ones on in Kern County.

While Bakersfield, Tehachapi, Bakersfield Christian, North and Rosamond are all on the road this week, the Generals are at home in the D-V semifinals against Firebaugh (9-2).

For Shafter (10-1) second-year coach Jerald Pierucci, the coaching staff is attempting to keep the game as the focus for the players despite the excitement around town.

“It’s a lot of fun. We talk about what it means for this town,” Pierucci, a 1994 graduate of Shafter, said. “As a coach, you go to who knows this well. It’s unique for our city, our boys, our school. But for us, it’s not a newness. My journey as a coach has led me to manage this team through this. It’s our opportunity for this town that has been aching for this realm in terms of football.”

Pierucci led Bakersfield Christian to the CIF State Division IV championships in 2013. Three of his assistants — Sean Lozano, Roger Patterson and Larry Whitbey — were all on staff with him at BCHS.

“With our kids having never been there before is to trust us coaches because we have,” Pierucci said. “We try to let them enjoy practicing during the week of Thanksgiving. It’s hard for them to grasp how unique this is. We are trying to keep it as business as possible.”

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