TULARE - It wasn’t pretty from the start.
After a six-game win streak, including two home playoff games to start the Central Section Division III playoffs, the season came to a crashing halt for No. 5 Tehachapi. The Warriors lost Friday, 38-7, to No. 1 Tulare Western at Bob Mathias Stadium in Tulare in the D-III semifinals.
“We were slow off the ball,” Tehachapi first-year coach Doug DeGeer said. “Their linebackers were flying around and we didn’t pick up their linebackers at all. A great team on the other side. They were very well coached.”
Tehachapi managed just 111 total yards of offense against Tulare Western’s 412. The Mustangs' attack was bolstered by 100-yard rushing performances from David Alcantar (9 rushes, 100 yards) and Tairyn Johnson (12-114).
The combo had scoring runs of 56 and 66 yards, two plays which surpassed Tehachapi's total output by 11 yards (the Warriors' 111 total yards were gained on 49 offensive plays).
“This sucks, man. We worked really hard all year,” Tehachapi senior Trevor Medovitch said. “It’s a tough game, but I am proud of my guys.”
The semifinals appearance for Tehachapi was its first since 2010, when the Warriors won the program’s 11th section title.
The loss marks the end of DeGeer's first year with the program, after the Warriors were led by Steve Denman for 34 years. Denman had 301 career wins at Tehachapi.
“Things obviously didn’t go our way today,” DeGeer said. “But just all season we were up and down. We fought back all season long and overcame a lot.”
For the second consecutive year, Tehachapi started 1-5 before going 4-1 in the South Yosemite League. The team beat South and Fresno at home in the first two playoff games.
Four of the Warriors' five losses in the regular season came to teams playing this week in the playoffs.
“Our seniors willed themselves and the rest of the team to get it done,” DeGeer said. “We ended up in a spot that five games in we wouldn’t have expected to be in.”
The Mustangs are playing in the D-III championship game for the second consecutive season after losing to Bakersfield Christian last fall. The Mustangs will host the finals as the top-seed.
“We are pretty excited about having that home opportunity,” Tulare Western coach Ryan Rocha said. “It’s really a notch on the kids right there to host a Central Section title game, which is a first in school history.”
Tulare Western got on the board as Alcantar scored on a 56-yard run on the fifth play of the game. The Mustangs would get in the end zone again in the opening quarter on a 1-yard quarterback keeper by Elijah Burrell.
The sophomore was also 9 of 20 passing for 162 yards on the afternoon, including a 48-yard scoring strike to backup quarterback Damarin Patterson. The only blemish on Burrell’s day was an interception by Medovitch, after the Warriors just scored their lone touchdown of the day on a 13-yard pass from Chris Garcia to Connor Timm.
Tulare Western averaged 7.6 yards per play (55-412) while Tehachapi had just eight plays total over eight yards.
“We’ve had the ability to make big plays all year,” Rocha said. “If you can get a lead on a team that runs the ball, you know you’re in good hands. We did a good job executing.”
The game began at 1 p.m. because Tulare Western and Tulare Union share the stadium. The Tribe hosted Dinuba in the D-II championship game at 7 p.m., which marked a special day for high school football in Tulare, according to Rocha.
“It really tips a hat to the kids on both (teams) to represent our hometown,” Rocha said.