The Central High School community was “United in Orange” on the perfect weathered evening of August 29th 2014. Many volunteered to take cheek swabs in support for finding a bone marrow match for Central High’s football coach Justin Garza who is coping with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Coach Garza didn’t let his condition slow him down, as he incredibly managed to coach a great game for the Grizzlies.
Central took a quick 12-0 lead as the two Johnsons, Tamar and Cameron; each ran for a 1 yard touchdown in the first two drives of the game. Following Tamar Johnson’s 2nd touchdown for Central (2yd run), the Grizzlies went into the locker room with a 20-7 lead.
As the 2nd half kicked off; so did the Willie Williams show. Liberty’s star player showed his Lion hart as he returned the opening kickoff 95 yards to the house. Central’s lead had now been cut to 6 (20-14). That was the only touchdown of the third quarter as both teams played hard hitting defense, and exchanged fumble recoveries.
The hard hitting defense continued in the 4th quarter for both teams, but something had to give. Finally with 4 minutes left in the game Central’s Quarterback Nick Szpor tossed a 42 yard bomb into the sure hands of Tamar Johnson to take another 12 point lead (26-14). This was Tamar’s third touchdown of the game! Wow! The fans were loud and proud of their Grizzlies, as they appeared to have the game in hand.
Just before the Central fans can return to their seats, Willie Williams returned the following kickoff for a Touchdown…. AGAIN! This time for 90 hard earned yards, as central players stayed on his tail through the entire return. After a successful extra point by Stirling Strong, the grizzlies lead was cut down to 5 (26-21).
Now, with just over 3 minutes left in the game; Central had to run the clock down, or convert a first down. Liberty burned their final two timeouts, and the defense held strong to stop central from getting a first down. Central then went for it on fourth down, but failed to convert when Nick Szpor slightly overthrew his receiver in the corner of the end zone, which could have won the game for the Grizzlies.
Instead with 55 seconds left, the unexpected happened. Liberty managed to drive down the field and spike the ball. With 3 seconds left on the last play of the game Liberty Quarterback Joseph Tolentino nearly gets sacked, manages to scramble to the right, and then just tosses the ball to the back center of the end zone. With defenders draped on him, none other than Willie Williams appears to leap up from the sea of hands and come down with the ball. Touchdown! No flag on the field, Liberty wins 26-27. The Central crowd was stunned, as emotions spilled over on the Liberty sideline. It was an amazing game by two tough and talented teams.
If you would like to see if you can be the match for Coach Garza, please visit BeTheMatch.org or call 1(800) 627-7692 (1-800-MARROW-2)
Kicking: Central abandoned the extra point attempts after the first one was missed. They lost by a point.
Rushing: Central ran the ball 31 times; Dehlon Preston had 16 carries with an average of 5.1 yards per carry.
Passing: Nick Szpor quietly went 14 for 24 with 207 yards, no interceptions and 1 TD
Receiving: Tamar Johnson 4 receptions for 108 yards
-Liberty Lions (Brentwood, CA)-
Kicking: Stirling Strong made all 3 of his extra point attempts
Rushing: Liberty ran the ball 38 times; Matavai Canady had 22 carries for 107 yards
Passing: Joseph Tolentino went 20 for 29 with 229 yards, no interceptions and 2 TD’s
Receiving: Willie Williams 5 receptions for 101 yards
Other Games: Week 1
Mendota 18, Sierra 13 – Mendota: Marco Rodriguez had 17 carries for 136 yards and 2 TD’s
Chowchilla 28, Madera South 14
Mt. Whitney 17, Garces 16 – Garces: Cameron Roberson 31 yard TD Run
Edison 13, Buchanan 7
Hanford 33, Kingsburg 12 – Hanford: Joseph McDaniel had 24 carries for 141 yards
Sierra Pacific 41, Parlier 15
Kerman 42, Selma 0 – Kerman: Isaac Gastelum had 3 carries for 118 yards and a TD
Kennedy 49, Granite Hills 0
Bullard 66, Hoover 0 – Bullard: Charles Williams had 11 carries for 139 yards and 3 TD’s
Clovis East 32, Golden Valley (Merced, CA) 25
Chavez 24, Roosevelt 13 – Chavez: Francisco Jacobo had 14 carries for 125 yards
Shafter 40, Mira Monte 6
Redwood 27, Sanger 23 – Redwood: Clutch Interception on their own 5 yard line to win the game
Wasco 43, North 18
Memorial 19, Washington 10 – Memorial: Stevan Johnson had 20 carries for 177 yards and 2 fourth quarter TD’s
Avenal 28, McFarland 7
El Diamante 49, Tulare 40 – El Diamante: Keylan Liles had 22 carries for 219 yards and 2 TD’s
Liberty (Madera Ranchos, CA) 70, Firebaugh 6
Dinuba 19, Mission Oak 17 – Dinuba: Evan Herod had 6 receptions for 103 yards and a TD
Lemoore 28, Monache 24
Clovis West 49, Merced 39 – Clovis West: Kordel Hoffman 18 for 25 for 361 yards and 3 TD’s, plus 115 yards rushing with 2 TD’s
Hanford West 37, Fresno 27
Paso Robles 48, Clovis 30 – Paso Robles: Bailey Gaither had 4 receptions for 145 yards and 2 TD’s; Jonathon Baldwin had 2 interceptions returned for TD’s and a 13 yard receiving TD
Central Valley Christian 60, Woodlake 7
Delano 20, South 18
Bakersfield Christian 66, Templeton 27
Riverdale 45, Laton 10
Whittier Christian 33, Bishop 25
Bakersfield 34, Oaks Christian 21
Kern Valley 34, Boron 14
Ridgeview 42, Frontier 21
Madera 37, Los Banos 7
Exeter 38, Lindsay 0
Mammoth 18, Frazier Mountain 12
Highland 26, Arvin 25
Centennial 42, Porterville 25
Liberty (Bakersfield, Ca) 18, Mission Viejo 7
Golden Valley (Bakersfield, Ca) 24, Taft 21
California City 34, Desert Christian 14
Tehachapi 42, Foothill 12
Immanuel 29, Dos Palos 15
Clovis North 19, Reed (Sparks, NV) 13
(State Rankings per Maxpreps.com; Scores and stats per Fresno Bee, and Sparks Tribune)