Righetti's vaunted run game delivered the goods. The last of six Brandon Giddings passes went for a two-yard touchdown to Kidasi Nepa. The defense made some key stops.
That all helped add up to Righetti success in its inaugural CIF Central Section football playoff game. The third-seeded Warriors defeated No. 11 Bakersfield Frontier 33-16 in the Division II quarterfinals at Righetti's Warrior Stadium Friday night.
Righetti is 9-2. Frontier finished 3-8. The Titans didn't play like a three-win team, but Righetti coach Tony Payne didn't expect them to.
"That is a tough football team," he said. "They play in one of the best, if not the best, leagues in the Central Section."
Frontier went 0-5 in the Southwest Yosemite League. Half of the six teams from that league are still in the playoffs. Under Central Section guidelines, any team that does not win a league championship can petition to get into the post-season.
Another Central Section guideline calls for the higher playoff seed to draw the home game each time. Righetti moved from the Southern Section to the Central Section earlier this year.
The Warriors will play another Bakersfield team, No. 7 Stockdale, at home at 7 p.m. next Friday night in the semifinals. Stockdale upset No. 2 Tulare Western 16-15 in a Thursday night quarterfinal.
Righetti was coming off its second bye in three weeks but, "We were ready for this game," said Righetti senior running back Adan Solis. "We worked hard in practice and we were ready."
The Warriors' running backs and their offensive line certainly looked ready. Solis, who had 1,470 yards on the year coming in, ran for a 14-yard score in the first quarter to open the scoring and a went in from four yards out to put Righetti ahead for good at 14-7 in the second quarter.
Besides catching the two-yard toss from Giddings to make it 33-16 with 2:13 left and essentially put the game away, Nepa ran around left end for 46 yards and a score to put Righetti up 20-7 at halftime and bulled his way in for a 12-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
Solis lugged the ball 28 times for a total of 143 yards. Nepa ran for 113 and Isaiah Gayfield, back from an injury for the first time since the Warriors' fifth game of the year, ran for 71 more. The Warriors, who were averaging 305 yards a game on the ground, racked up 331 yards rushing Friday night.
"We've got our three-headed monster back," said Payne, referring to Solis, Nepa and a healthy Gayfield.
Righetti center Christian Mondol helped lead the surge as the Warriors' offensive line opened holes for their backs all night.
"We had a good surge off the ball, but we can do better," said Mondol. "We've got more to give."
Solis spent a lot of his time banging up the middle for crucial first-down yardage on third-and-short plays.
"I figured I would have to do that," he said. "I don't mind. I like it."
Frontier's offense gave the Righetti defense plenty of trouble. Ernest Jackson ran for 122 yards and Israel Chaverria threw for 142 more. Chaverria tied the game for the Titans went he went in on a 1-yard sneak in the first quarter.
However, the Righetti defense made some key stops. With Frontier driving after the second Solis score, Avery Fondern popped the ball loose from Jackson, and Anthony Porcho recovered the ball for the Warriors at the Righetti 48.
Frontier got the ball to open the second half, and the Titans drove to the Righetti 11. However, Andrew Martinez stopped Jackson after a two-yard gain on first down, and Frontier settled for a 25-yard Devin Eason field goal.
Chaverria hit Jackson with six-yard touchdown pass to pull the Titans within 26-16 with 8:17 left. The Titans went for two to try to make it a one-score game, but Mike Flores picked off the halfback option pass in the end zone.
After the Giddings-to-Nepa touchdown pass, Frontier made a last-ditch bid but Jake Steels intercepted Chaverria at the goal line.
Righetti had three possessions in the second half. The first two were time consuming drives that ended with touchdowns. The Warriors ran out the clock on the last one.
The Warriors effectively mixed a quick tempo attack with draining the clock as the game went along.
"We wanted to use up a lot of the clock once we got ahead," said Mondol. "We had a good thing going and we wanted to keep it that way."
In other Friday night Division II quarterfinal action, top-ranked Tulare Union squeezed past No. 8 Bakersfield Garces 34-27 and No. 4 Dinuba beat No. 5 Hanford 41-14.
Central Section 8-man, semifinal
Fresno Christian 53, Orcutt Academy 34
Orcutt Academy’s football season has come to an end – and it ended in new territory: The CIF Central Section 8-man semifinals.
After falling behind 20-0, the Spartans rallied to tie things up but ultimately fell short against Fresno Christian, losing 53-34 in Fresno on Friday night.
The Spartans were first down 14-0 after the first quarter. Then, Anthony Lonardo found Griffin Schmidt on a 16-yard strike that made it 20-0 in favor of the home team.
But then, the Spartan rally erupted.
Alex Sutton scored the first touchdown for the Spartans from 15 yards out, with 7:50 left in the second quarter.
Sutton returned to punch the ball into the end zone from the Eagles’ three-yard line that sliced the lead to 20-13. On the subsequent offensive series, Max Daniels called his own number and scored from 19 yards out –tying things up at 20-all.
But that would be the last time the Spartans had things knotted up.
The Eagles tacked on two more touchdowns in the first six minutes of the third. Fresno Christian found itself leading 46-20 in the fourth quarter before the Spartans showed they had one more rally in them.
Daniels used his right arm to find Dylan McIntire from 12 yards out and Sutton on a 33 yard catch to cut the lead to 53-34. But the Eagles prevented any more scoring from there.
Fresno Christian will now take on Mission Prep for the section’s 8-man title next Friday in San Luis Obispo.