During the second half of the Southern Section Division IX championship game, Whittier Christian High School went into a different sort of prevent defense.
Call it: Prevent Tehachapi running back Eric Young from scoring.
It wasn’t perfect--Young rushed for 182 yards and one touchdown--but Whittier Christian slowed him enough to beat Tehachapi, 34-21, and win the Division IX title Saturday in front of about 4,500 at Bakersfield College.
It was Whittier Christian’s first appearance in a Southern Section final since 1984, when the Heralds won their second consecutive Inland Conference title.
The Heralds (13-0) won with a combination of nearly mistake-free ball-control offense and opportunistic defense. Whittier Christian had no turnovers, but forced three Tehachapi turnovers, each of which led to Whittier Christian touchdowns.
This championship, the first under Coach Phil Bravo, was won convincingly in the second half after Tehachapi (12-2) rallied to tie the score, 14-14, in the last minute of the first half.
Tehachapi quarterback Ryan Grimes threw two touchdown passes in the first half after Whittier Christian took a 14-0 lead on a one-yard run by Rex Pritchard and a 49-yard touchdown pass from Nick Sanchez to Dave Whitby.
But it was Young, who has rushed for more than 2,000 yards this season, who was the heart of the Warriors’ offense.
Young set up Tehachapi’s first touchdown with a 60-yard run, and in the second half, was the only Warrior to gain yards rushing.
Young’s 182 yards came in 30 carries but the Warriors’ offense was so one-dimensional in the second half--he carried on 19 on their 24 second-half plays--that Whittier Christian was able key on him.
Still Tehachapi stayed with the Heralds, tying the score, 21-21, with 3 minutes 7 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
But Whittier Christian took a 27-21 lead at the end of the third quarter and then forced Tehachapi to punt. And that’s all the Heralds needed.
“We’ll beat you if you punt a few times,” Bravo said.
Actually it was an interception by Whitby, his ninth of the season, that broke up Tehachapi’s final drive and led to the Heralds’ final touchdown drive.
Although he didn’t score, fullback Ron Rector provided 82 yards in 17 carries for the Heralds. Pritchard rushed 14 times for 65 yards.
The teams agreed to play at Bakersfield College instead of Tehachapi. Whittier Christian payed the difference--about $2,000--between what it would have cost to play the game on the Warriors’ home field.
“This meant a lot to me,” said Bravo, who was an assistant on the Heralds’ two championship teams. “The was the year we weren’t supposed to do anything yet, 14 weeks later here we are. We go 300 miles round trip to win the championship.”