Football: Golden West defeats Kerman 31-19 to qualify for first Valley Championship appearance in school history

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By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN

VISALIA – Golden West came within a single second of punching their ticket to the D-IV Valley Championship game last year. Unfortunately a game ending plunge into the end zone by Coalinga left the 2016 Trailblazers knocking at the door. But this year they kicked the door wide open with a 31-19 win over the Kerman Lions. Now they have to concentrate on the cross town Central Valley Christian Cavaliers as they’ll come into Groppetti Automotive Community Stadium this Friday.

According to Golden West head coach Paul Preheim there is no lack of motivation coming from his side of the field.

“A lot of these guys are three year starters and they really want this pretty bad. It’s good for them and it’s good for the school,” Preheim said. “When we’ve been in our brown uniforms this season we’re undefeated.”

Like in any game, things are far from certain until the final whistle blows. While a 12-point differential indicates smooth sailing, it was anything but in the first half and the beginning of the second.

Facing their second pass heavy team in as many weeks, the defense was forced to keep their head on a swivel. Speedsters on the outside and creative play designs made the secondary keenly aware of their parts of the field, and that showed in the first drive of the game. When 6-foot-4 quarterback Sean Chambers stepped back and fired a pass on third down Zachary Hart stepped in front of it but couldn’t come up with the interception. However it did force a punt.

Golden West gave the Kerman defense a heavy dose of running plays. The first was to stalwart senior Gonzalo Rodriguez who was turned around by a would be tackler but he put his hand in the ground and pivoted around to break free for 10 yards. A couple plays later quarterback Payton Allen connected with receiver Ben Davis on a shallow corner route. Davis was quick on his feet and turned up field along the home sideline to put the offense in the red zone. Golden West grounded the ball down to the 3 yard line and let Rodriguez punch it in for the game’s first points.

On Kerman’s following possession the Trailblazer defense let up a big run that eventually resulted in a fourth and three deep in the Golden West red zone. Chambers came up big on the play when he took the ball and evaded defenders on his way to the game tying score. Golden West’s following drive featured Davis’ shifty speed as he rushed for 20 yards on a key third down. He came up big once again when he was able to put the offense in striking distance. Then from three yards out the Golden West offense trusted Davis to take them in for the score on a sweep toward the far side of the field. The score gave them the 14-7 advantage at the end of the first quarter.

The game seemed stymied for the majority of the second quarter, until Kerman’s offense found some traction in the final minute. On a key fourth and one from the 48 yard line, Chambers scrambled for 10 yards. On the very next play Chambers connected with wide receiver Charlie Castellanos on an inside seam route. Chamber put the ball between defenders and right into Castellanos’ hands in the end zone. The bright spot for Golden West was when Christian Benavides blocked the point after try to preserve the lead at 14-13 heading into the half.

After the break, the wheels could have fallen off for the Trailblazer offense. Running the ball with impunity down to the 5 yard line, the Trailblazers seemed as if they were ready for the go ahead score. But when Rodriguez was pummeled when he got the handoff, he coughed up the ball and Kerman got the turnover.

The Trailblazers dodged a major bullet when Kerman got into scoring position at the 36 yard line. On fourth and five Chambers tried for a touchdown picking on Davis who was playing the corner position. Luckily for Golden West the ball sailed through the back of the end zone giving the Blazer offense the ball.

From then on out the Blazers made no buts about their game plan – give Rodriguez the ball. After the fumble he ran angry, rumbling through the defense for 10 yards or more on every carry until he hit pay dirt on a three yard plunge followed by a two-point conversion to push their lead 22-13 with 2:03 left in the third quarter.

“I was running hard because of that fumble,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve grinded hard all off season, pre season and it’s paid off, it really has.”

Golden West’s defense kept Chambers and the Lion offense from responding when Izzak Perez strip sacked Chambers in the pocket on third and 16. Kerman recovered but the snap from the following punt went over the punters head that led to a safety and a 24-13 advantage for the Trailblazers.

The offense poured on the running plays until they were in the end zone once again for their final score of the game. From there Kerman scored a garbage time touchdown that eventually led to the 31-19 final.

Now all that is left to do for the Blazers is win Valley. The game is slated for 7 p.m. this Friday, Dec. 1 at Groppetti Automotive Visalia Community Stadium. They’ll be facing off against a talented CVC team that is also 10-2 on the season, and they had an impressive offensive showing in their semifinal game. By the end they had trounced Bakersfield North 57-16.

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