Featured image by Aidan Garaygordobil, B.A., DelanoSportsMedia
Kern County is an environment that has not been known for high school football, but this may change in the future. Three high school football teams from Kern County have triumphed and won their respective division’s valley championships — Shafter High School, Liberty High School, and Robert F. Kennedy High School have gotten to this point of success, and look to receive their rings soon.
Shafter High School has an incredible squad, which was known when this team went 11-5 overall. As many know, playoffs are a different beast compared to the regular season, as tension is high and pressure is harder. Freshman quarterback Ezekiel Osborne was given the opportunity to lead this team to a championship and did just that.
“Leading the team as a freshman is a great feeling especially because my teammates never treat me like less than them. They are always there to support and help me, and that’s the only reason I am successful,” stated Osborne.
During the 2022 CIF Central Section D4 Championship game, Shafter only put up 14 in the first half. Caruthers was up by 7 points, but this deficit wasn’t enough to stop the highlight-motivated Generals.
“The tight games in the regular season definitely helped us get used to being uncomfortable and is the reason we went this far in the playoffs. My lack of experience didn’t pressure me in the playoffs, you have to treat every game like the last, no matter how big the stage is. We put in so much hard work for it to happen. Our community deserved a valley championship after going decades and decades without one,” expressed Osborne.
Osborne went on to add that the Generals were also ignited by Coach Pierucci’s mentality, adding: “Coach Pierucci is a great coach and the best I’ve ever had, he helped prepare us for every game this season and also helps prepare us for life.”
The Shafter Generals went on to play in the state game against Orland High School and were unfortunately defeated after a long but successful season. Shafter High Boosters and Jerald Pierucci have organized a fundraiser or GoFundMe for the team’s valley rings as well. They have raised $10,000 and are looking to reach the goal of $25,000. This link can be reached on the football team’s Instagram at @shafterhighfootball, or by searching, “SHS 2022 D4 CIF Central Section rings.”
Robert F. Kennedy High School, or Kennedy for short, put on a show for not only Delano but all surrounding areas. Kennedy was the king of their league, winning 4-0 during league games, and 11-3 overall. The regular season was a slow start for Kennedy, going 1-2 in their first three games.
After the second loss of the season, which was to Highland High School, Kennedy kicked it into overdrive. Kennedy proceeded to go on a 10-game winning streak before earning a spot in the CIF Central Section Division III championship game. During this time, they also knocked Highland out of the playoff bracket, proving to be the dominant team.
With the energy and momentum in their favor, Kennedy controlled the valley floor. They defeated Sunnyside High School with a score of 40-20 and made a statement.
“The valley game was something you just had to take in and enjoy. The environment was very different compared to what I’m used to, and it all felt surreal. Winning an SSL valley championship is what made this season memorable, but creating a brotherhood with my teammates is what truly made it a great one,” stated Kennedy wide receiver Hugo Loera.
Loera, being a junior, expressed his confidence in his team even after their State Championship loss to Northwood.
“As a team, we have to continue the good pace from here on forward and get ready for the next season. We are preparing for the new adjustments that are coming,” Loera added onto this with an appreciation for his coach, “He always told us what the goal was and we understood. He always knew how to lift and motivate us. I appreciate all the effort he’s put into all my teammates and me, and I can’t wait to ring chase next season with Coach Millan.”
Liberty left it all on the field this year, with an overall record of 13-2. Liberty is a known powerhouse and plans to maintain this idea.
Grant Buckey, UCLA commit and three-star defensive end expressed his thoughts after winning a valley championship: “Football is very important to me, and is a way of life that I hope to continue for a long time. It feels great putting on a jersey for Liberty, being able to represent our talent in this county, and showing everyone what we can do.”
Liberty was able to win the D1 2022 CIF Central Section Football Championship and later went on to win the D1-A State Championship.