Tulare Union holds off Kingsburg in postseason shootout

Tulare Union’s Franklin Lockard runs the ball against Kingsburg. With the Tribe’s win, they will advance to the semifinals to face Central Valley Christian.(Kason Clark)

Tulare Union football survives in the Division II Central Section playoffs with a 49-42 victory over Kingsburg; the Tribe advances to the semifinals where they will face Central Valley Christian

TULARE – When you are in the postseason, there is only one goal: survive and advance. And that is what Tulare Union football did in its playoff game against Kingsburg.

Throughout the night of Friday, Nov. 10, the Tribe and the Vikings went back and forth. But the Tribe eventually pulled ahead to walk away with the 49-42 victory and advance in the Division II Central Section playoffs.

“We did enough to win,” Tulare Union head coach Darren Bennett said. “We didn’t play very well defensively but Kingsburg played really well. They threw the ball well and ran the ball well.”

While the defense gave up 42 points to the Vikings, the Tulare Union offense came to play. With 49 points, the Tribe have now scored at least 40 points in three straight games. The Tribe have won all three of those games as they are now 8-4 this season.

Quarterback Jordan Crisp had another excellent game for the Tribe as he threw five touchdown passes and had a score on the ground. While had a great individual performance, Crisp knows the offense only gets going when everybody is doing their part.

“We’re staying true to our plays and we’re always just working,” Crisp said. “When our offensive line is going crazy, when our running backs are doing their thing, when our athletes are doing their thing and especially when our defense is doing its thing, the outcome is always great.”

The Tribe got rolling early as they took their opening kick down to the Kingsburg 21-yard line. On fourth down, Crisp found Brayden Stevenson in the endzone for a touchdown. But the Tulare Union defense allowed the Vikings to go right down the field on their opening possession. At the end of the drive, Dennis Gagnon ran the ball in for a four-yard touchdown run to tie the game.

It took little time for the Tribe to respond as Stevenson caught a shovel pass from Crisp and it took it 42 yards for a touchdown to give the Tribe the lead. Early in the second quarter, Kingsburg tied the game when Max Warkentin found Wyatt Boyd for a 47-yard touchdown pass. The Tribe quickly responded as Crisp threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Franklin Lockard to give Tulare Union a 21-14 lead.

The Vikings quickly tied the game with a 65-yard touchdown pass from Warkentin to Ryan Martinez, but momentum stayed with the Tribe. On their next possession, the Tribe drove down the field and Crisp found Demaje Riley for a 12-yard touchdown strike to retake the lead.

After forcing a Kingsburg punt, the Tribe made it a two-possession game with a six-yard touchdown run from Tieler Peterson. Hoping to create momentum before halftime, the Vikings drove down the field to the Tribe’s three-yard line. Warkentin then connected with Chris Browe for a touchdown to make it a 35-28 game at the break.

In the third quarter, both offenses suddenly found themselves struggling to score. The Tribe punted a couple times while Warkentin threw a pair of interceptions. But the Vikings finally broke through thanks to a 16-yard touchdown run from Gagnon that tied the game heading to the fourth.

With a new ball game to start the fourth, the Tribe offense finally got back on track. After a couple strong runs to reach the one-yard line, Crisp kept the ball on a quarterback sneak to give his team a 42-35 lead. As the offense finally woke up, Crisp credited his defense for keeping it close and giving the offense a chance.

“We definitely woke up off of the defense’s momentum,” Crisp said. “When the defense got momentum, our momentum was at a peak, so we decided that when they’re going crazy, we have to match their energy.”

The defense stayed hot as it forced a Kingsburg punt. With the ball back, the Tribe offense marched down the field looking to make it a two-possession game. And at the Vikings’ seven-yard line, Crisp found Sonny Guess for a touchdown to make it a 49-35 game with under four minutes remaining.

With time running out, the Vikings put together a drive that ended with a touchdown to make it a one-possession game. But the Vikings failed to recover their onside kick attempt and the Tribe ran out the clock to walk away with the win.

The Tribe will next face Central Valley Christian in the semifinals. The No. 1 seed Cavaliers are coming off of a 48-27 win over Tehachapi, so Bennett knows CVC will be a handful for the Tribe. 

“I know they’re good and I know they have a really good running back in Bryson Donelson,” Bennett said. “They’ve got a really good team so we’re going to have to play our best football to beat them.”

If the Tribe are going to upset CVC and clinch a spot in the Central Valley championship game, Crisp believes they just need to maintain their level of play and intensity.

“We just keep rolling by just doing what we’re supposed to do and just keeping things true like always,” Crisp said.

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