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Defense leads Garces to first round playoff win at Frontier

If the old saying that defense wins championships, then Garces looks the part of a playoff contender, especially on Friday night.

Dom D’Amato led the Rams with two of the team’s five interceptions as No. 9 Garces defeated No. 8 Frontier 37-7 in the opening round of the Central Section Division II playoffs at Frontier.

Garces will play at No. 1 Hanford next Friday in the quarterfinals.

“This is a great feeling to watch the kids play so well tonight,” Golla said. “It’s a long process and over the last couple weeks we’ve played some really great football. We are excited about the No. 1 seed in Hanford who is a great football program … It’s going to be exciting.”

Neither team really could muster a long and successful drive in the first half with the Rams leading 9-0 at the half behind a 35-yard field goal by Peter Delis and a 5-yard quarterback keeper by Joseph Campbell.

Then Garces really heated up after halftime.

Phillip Bradford picked off Frontier sophomore Travis Plugge on the second play of the second half, which led to a 12-yard touchdown run by Jalen Smith just three minutes later. 

After Marcus Martinez sacked Plugge two plays after Smith’s touchdown, Elijah Topilla picked off Plugge, and that turnover led to another Garces touchdown as Campbell found Bradford for a 10-yard touchdown pass and the Rams never looked back.

The lone blemish for the Garces defense came after a muffed punt return that set up Frontier on the Garces 2-yard line, cutting the Rams lead to 23-7 on the play, but the suffocating defense never relented.

Eli Garcia had a first-half interception and the defense also recorded six sacks against Frontier (5-6), including Smith and Logan Bowers both recording a sack and a half while J.J. Uphold, Marcus Martinez and Zach Buckey all recorded sacks. 

Bowers and Smith also got into the scoring column later in the second half on a 62-yard bruising run by Smith and Bowers recording his first varsity touchdown on the final score of the game on a 15-yard run with 8:47 to play.

“It was just working together as a team and on our technique and playing together,” Bradford said.

The win also continues an impressive trend for Golla as a head coach. 

In his 14 years at Bakersfield High, the Drillers lost to a team in the regular season only to blow the same team out in the playoff four times, including two that led to a D-I section title. 

Like his first year at BHS in 2005, the Rams (5-6) upended the Titans after a 40-35 loss to Frontier in the Southwest Yosemite League opener five weeks ago. 

“When you can believe in the little things that help win games. It’s not the big things that win games,” Golla said. “A business is great because they do the little things right.”

Central Section Division II first round

No. 9 Garces 37, No. 8 Frontier 7


First quarter

G- Delis 35 yard field goal

Second quarter

G – Campbell 5 run (kick fail)

Third quarter

G – Smith 12 run (Delis kick)

G – Bradford 10 pass from Campbell (Delis kick)

F – Hughes 2 run (kick good)

G – Smith 62 run (Delis kick)

Fourth quarter

G – Bowers 15 run (Delis kick) 

Individual statistics

RUSHING: Smith 9-109, Wimberly 6-52, Campbell 3-7, Bowers 6-32, Topilla 1-25, Monteiro 2-(-8).

PASSING: Campbell 18-30-1-153.

RECEIVING: Bradford 5-28, Hatten 2-19, D’Amato 4-26, Marshall 5-67, Bell 2-13.

W-L: GMHS 5-6; FHS 5-6.

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