On Friday night, the Kennedy Thunderbird Football Team loaded a charter bus to travel to Caruthers to take on the 12-0 Blue Raiders in the semifinals of the Division V playoffs.
Caruthers stadium is where the Thunderbirds ended their season in the quarterfinals last year as the Blue Raiders went on to win the Division V championship and move on to the state playoffs.
The Thunderbirds knew full well that their opponent had only lost one game in the last two years and did not want their season to come to an end on the same field. To say there was a lot of motivating factors on the side of Kennedy would be an understatement, as the winner of this game would move on the valley championship game and an opportunity for a rematch with the Shafter Generals.
When it all was over, the Thunderbirds not only won the game, they dominated in every facet with a 73-19 smashing of Caruthers.
On the opening series for the T-Birds, Yoncanni Sandoval went around the corner on a sweep to go 71 yards to put the Kennedy ahead 7-0 after the extra point. After a defensive stand by the Thunderbirds, a 27-yard field goal was then added on by Jesse Fierro on the next series.
Fierro would end up with 13 points at the end of the night.
At the end of the first quarter, the Blue Raiders found themselves in a precarious situation, down by 10 points, trailing for the first time this season. It was obvious that Caruthers was not prepared for this adversity as defensively they began to collapse at the feet of the overwhelming Thunderbird offense that saw Tyreak Walker score from 2, 43 and 80 yards.
Kennedy quarterback Jose Cota added an 11-yard touchdown run and also threw for a 51-yard touchdown pass to Sandoval. Caruthers was stuffed by the defense for the most part with an interception by Isaac Villalobos, but did manage to score a touchdown.
That closed the first half with Kennedy leading 45-7 and left the Blue Raiders shell-shocked going into their locker room hoping to possibly regroup and make a game of it.
The third quarter had some great defensive plays with an interception by Anthony Ontiveros and a fumble recovery by Eddie Hernandez. Coupled with back-to-back sacks by Tito Enciso, the defense opened the doors for the offense to once again go to work.
Walker found the end zone on runs of 10, 63 and 67 yards to close his night with 313 yards rushing and five touchdowns.
Late in the third quarter, Sandoval also found the end zone on a 63-yard scamper that closed his statistical night with 212 yards rushing on seven carries and three touchdowns.
The Blue Raiders managed to get one score in the third quarter and finished the night scoring in the fourth on the Thunderbird younger players pulled up from the JV and freshman team.
The Thunderbird offense had more than 650 yards of offense with 593 of them coming on the ground, which turned out to be the largest amount of offense by a Thunderbird team in the school’s history along with the 73 points put up.
Next week, the Thunderbirds will once again travel to Shafter to take on the Generals, but this time in the Division V valley championship game.
This game will be a rematch of the week nine game where both teams entered the game at 8-0 and saw the Shafter Generals give the Thunderbirds their first and only loss of the season. This matchup is one of two teams in the same league, the SSL, that are in the same county.
It will be an exciting rematch that will match the two best teams in Division V. Game time is 7 p.m. with presale tickets being sold at Shafter High School before the game.
Don’t miss out on what will be the only valley championship in Kern County for 2018. There will be a large crowd and the Thunderbirds will need Delano to come out and represent. Kennedy High School will be looking to earn its third valley championship title in the past five years.
Mario Millan is head coach of the Robert F. Kennedy varsity football team.