WASCO - Chad Martinez, in his first full season as the head coach at Wasco, had a little pep in his step while talking to his players near the west end zone on Friday night.
Moments before, No. 8 Wasco beat No. 9 East 33-16 in the opening round of the Central Section Division IV playoffs at home.
It was the first playoff win for the Tigers in two years and the first for Martinez after taking over midseason in 2017 for Rick Stewart.
Martinez waited for his assistant coaches to talk to the players, then Martinez continued to dance and yelled to his players, “See you Monday morning,” indicating the season will continue next Friday at No. 1 Porterville in the quarterfinals.
“It feels good. The boys deserved it,” Martinez said. “Every down was a physical one. This was a tough game. We knew East would present some problems but the boys got it done tonight. But I am proud of them.”
Wasco won the early turnover battle and the Tigers never looked back.
Wasco went up 13-0 on rushing touchdowns by Noah Mcclain and Elias Salinas in the first quarter.
East responded with a 25-yard scoring strike from Richard Lara to Michael Rodriguez on the first series of the second quarter before Christian Alvarez scored the next three touchdowns for Wasco as the Tigers finished the game on a 20-0 run.
In true Wasco fashion, the Tigers won a playoff game without completing a pass while rushing 61 times for 408 yards.
Before Alvarez’ first touchdown, the sophomore ran 44 yards to the Blades’ 9-yard line. When he popped up after getting tackled, Alvarez was met by half of the offensive line that raced down the field with him.
Martinez was very impressed with the play of his five offensive linemen in Oso Velez, Wilber Tovar, Chris Garza, Chris Gutierrez and Juan Vega.
“It puts a big smile on my face,” Martinez said. “They love the grind, but when they get out in space, they love the second and third level. That’s huge. Our backs love them and so do we.”
Alvarez led Wasco (8-3) with 186 rushing yards. Mcclain added 73 on seven carries and Salinas added another 52 yards as nine different Wasco players ran the ball.
“It’s amazing,” Mcclain said. “It felt really great to come out here and do our job.”
Lara left the game with 6:30 left in the first half only to return in the second half. Lara was injured again on the first play of the fourth quarter was injured on what Blades’ (5-6) coach Chad Grider said was a “helmet-to-helmet” hit.
Lara had completed 13 of his 31 passes for 159 yards.
“We just didn’t play our best game. That’s for sure,” Grider said.
With Lara out at points in the second half, William Ball came in as his backup.
Two plays after Lara walked off the field early in the fourth quarter, Ball was taken off the field after a helmet-to-helmet call against Wasco.
Kern County sheriffs on duty were called to escort an individual on East’s sidelines after the hit and escorted two East fans out of the stadium before play resumed.
Three plays later, Brandon Austin scored on a 2-yard run for the Blades.