Go on to first State Championship game for SHS
The Shafter Generals football team continued their historic run in the playoffs, earning Shafter's first shot for a state championship in the school's history. The Generals traveled to Walnut High School and beat the Mustangs, 20-16, in the Southern Regional Championship game.
It was another come-from-behind win from a team that has earned the moniker "The Kardiac Kids." It was a replay of the Valley Championship game in Caruthers, with the Generals coming out in the first half and having trouble moving the ball on offense. The Generals had less than 100 yards in offense at halftime, making it imperative to mount a comeback in the second half.
Shafter got a little momentum late in the first half when Ernesto Guerrero kicked a 21-yard field goal, getting the Generals on the board, 10-3.
Coach Jerald Pierucci put it straight to his team at halftime: "I challenged the kids, told them that I wanted to see the team that has fought so hard the past four weeks. And they came out in the second half as that team."
The Generals tied the game up in the third quarter, with freshman quarterback Ezekiel Osborn leading a charge down the field. After a penalty pushed Shafter back a bit, the Generals kept the drive alive on a crucial fourth down play. The drive ended with a 2-yard touchdown run by sophomore Christian Espinoza. Espinoza has carried a big load for the Generals in recent weeks, giving the team key first downs and timely scores.
Shafter went ahead 17-10 on Espinoza's second touchdown run of the game. Walnut Hill answered back with a long touchdown play. The point-after was blocked, keeping the Generals ahead 17-16.
Osborn, who has shown a maturity well beyond his freshman status, didn't have a record-setting game such as in previous weeks, but he led the Generals offense in a ball-control offense in the second half that kept the Mustangs' defense on the field for long periods of time, eating up precious minutes on the clock.
The Generals' defense turned away the Mustangs' comeback bid late in the fourth quarter, stopping the Mustangs on two key fourth-down plays, keeping the Generals in the lead.
Espinoza ended the game with almost 200 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Espinoza was the workhorse for the team ever since Rhodes had went out during the Wasco game. "I knew that when it became late in the game, that we would have Espinoza in the backfield grinding away," said Pierucci. The coach also commented on the style of play and the win for the team. "These kids, they have to make it interesting. They are 'Kardiac Kids' for a reason, but in the end, we scored more points than they did.
"We are a tough-nosed people. We go to work every day, we grind every day, and to come down here and get a win in the way that we did, I think that it is awesome," concluded Pierucci.
The Generals will now hit the road again, this time to Orland, 375 miles away, to play for the first State Championship for the school in any sport. Tickets must be bought online, by going to GoFan.com.