BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — After sixteen weeks of high school football, Kern County finds itself rooting for both David and Goliath in a pair of State Championship match-ups on Saturday.
In a span of just 24 hours, both the Independence Falcons and Liberty Patriots teams punch their ticket to the ultimate sports stage.
A game-winning pick, a police escort, and a packed house — Just three of the indelible memories forever encapsulating the magic displayed on two football fields some 150 miles apart.
After starting their season with six straight losses, Tyler Schilhabel’s team reminded us of the power of perseverance.
“You ask any of these boys and I don’t think they would be surprised because they knew what we had, so we are just excited to be able to get to the holy grail of all of football,” Schilhabel said. “It does not matter if you are in the pros or college — playing for a State Championship is up there with some of the greatest things in life and I am excited for these boys to have that opportunity.”
On International Persons with Disabilities Day, the paralyzed leader and his Independence Falcons outlasted Venice.
“You know, there was like five seconds left and I knew I had to make a big play and our coaches always say, ‘Big players make big plays,’ so I knew I had to do the job,” D’amonte Moten, who caught the game-winning interception, said.
The game may have ended with a last-second interception by D’amonte Moten, but it was Ladon Denmark who stole the show. With a deceased mom and dad top of mind, the senior quarterback scored three straight times.
“It feels really great actually, playing on my mom’s birthday week and getting the win,” Denmark said.
Now he’s off to San Marin High School where the Falcons are four-quarters away from capturing their first State Title.
The Patriots also find themselves a win away from program history.
“We are just going to work man,” Liberty head coach Bryan Nixon said. “It is so much fun to watch these kids succeed and play the way they are playing right now.”
Liberty leaned on a packed Memorial Stadium Saturday night, using the crowds’ energy as fuel for an offensive onslaught against Pittsburg.
“I mean, it’s awesome,” Liberty wide-receiver Jason Oliver said. “Coach Nixon is the better coach I have ever had, I am happy this team right here has the opportunity to take him to his first State Final.”
Wide Receiver Jason Oliver went for the hat trick, while the Pats defense kept the Pirates at bay.
The final was 35-7, and Liberty had themselves a day.
With a belt in one hand and some hardware in the other, Bryan Nixon’s boys will travel to Saddleback College for a D-1 clash with Serra High School.
“It’s a really big game for us and our program and our city,” Liberty quarterback Carson Woods said. “We are ready.”