They say turnabout is fair play, and that couldn’t be more true than with the football rivalry between Shafter and Kennedy.
Last year, the Thunderbirds spoiled the Generals’ perfect season with a victory in the Central Section Division V championship game.
On Friday night, Shafter returned the favor with a 27-21 victory, handing Kennedy its first defeat. It was the Generals’ fourth straight victory after a 1-4 start and moved them into SSL title contention, something that didn’t seem possible just a few weeks ago.
“They did something that threw us off a little bit,” said Kennedy coach Mario Millan, whose team entered the game averaging 52 points a game in league play. “The front that they put up against us, for whatever reason our guys were not understanding to get to all the guys they needed to get to. So they put us in a position where we had to throw the ball last night. We threw the ball around 20 times and normally we throw the ball three to five times a game.
“I know that was their goal to get us to do something we don’t normally do, and they did that. It’s not what we’re comfortable with and it took us away from what we like to do, and how we take the time off the clock. They basically just turned it on us.”
Shafter capitalized on multiple Kennedy mistakes, forcing five turnovers, several of which gave the Generals (5-4, 4-1) a short field to work with.
Senior quarterback Jackson Sanchez rushed for three touchdowns and threw for another to give Shafter just enough offense in a defensive battle throughout.
Sanchez opened the scoring with a short TD run, set up when Leo Fernandez blocked a punt and Joey Sanchez recovered it deep in Thunderbirds territory. Another RFK turnover helped the Generals to a 14-0 second-quarter lead.
It was part of a big night for Fernandez, who also intercepted two passes, including a desperation heave by Jose Cota to cinch the victory for the Generals.
Cota had just connected for a long touchdown pass with Enrique Ramirez to pull the Thunderbirds to within six points with less than 2 minutes to play. It was one of two TD receptions for Ramirez.
Kennedy (8-1, 4-1) then recovered an onside kick, giving the Thunderbirds the ball in Shafter territory with 1:40 to play with two timeouts. But Fernandez’s interception ended all hopes for a dramatic comeback victory.
“This season with this being a young team, and the ups and downs of having a young team, it’s been a time of constant growth and constant learning because you have kids that have never really been in situations that you can’t really practice,” Shafter coach Jerald Pierucci said. “You try to practice, but it never really goes as it should. They have to live through their those experiences really in order to learn from them. With this win … I’m very proud of my guys and my coaches. They did a great job.”
BAKERSFIELD CHRISTIAN 50, INDEPENDENCE 7
Dominic Gamboni threw for 171 yards, including two touchdowns to Ronnie Simril, to lead the Eagles (6-3, 3-1) past the Falcons (3-6, 3-1). Simril finished with 106 yards receiving on four catches. David Stevenson rushed for 96 yards and two scores to pace Bakersfield Christian’s ground attack. Independence’s touchdown came on a 17-yard TD pass from Xavier Ramirez to Zarek Williams in the second quarter.
WEST 21, GOLDEN VALLEY 20
The Vikings (3-6, 1-3) blocked the potential game-winning field goal with 15 seconds left in a South Yosemite League game against the Bulldogs (1-8, 0-4). Senior Leauauna Laulu rushed for 83 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries, and Xavier Lopez added 70 yards and a score on five carries for West, which had 285 yards rushing.