By CALIFORNIAN STAFF REPORTS
Shawn Austin has decided to leave his post as Robert F. Kennedy's football coach after one year, he confirmed Monday.
Austin, who led the Thunderbirds to the first two victories in the program's four-year history, took a job as the defensive coordinator at Concordia University in Selma, Ala. Concordia is a member of the United States Collegiate Athletic Association, which consists of 82 small-college members across the country.
Austin told Kennedy athletic director Les Lucas of the decision about two weeks ago.
"My heart was telling me to go back to college," said Austin, who had previously coached at the junior-college and NAIA levels. "It wasn't nothing to bad-mouth (Kennedy) about. It just popped up. The good Lord puts us on a path, and I guess that was the path that came along for me."
Lucas said the school has been feverishly searching and interviewing for a new coach since he learned of Austin's decision and that he hopes to have a hire made this week.
"It was pretty sudden," Lucas said. "It's so late in the game that the goal is to have someone soon. That's where we're at."
Lucas said there was no question Austin improved the program in his one year on the job. Besides the victories -- Kennedy went 2-9 and competed in the Central Section Division VI playoffs after going 0-30 in the program's first three seasons -- Lucas said Austin had instituted year-round weight training and was poised to field a competitive team in 2013.
"The program was definitely building," Lucas said. "You could see some bumps and knots rising up guys' arms. Whoever takes over obviously won't be starting from the bottom."
Austin, who organized an NFL-style combine at the school in May, said he was proud of the changes he had made in a short period.
"I left that place in better shape than I got it," he said. "Now they got some substance."
-- ZACH EWING
BCHS seeking coach and trainer
Bakersfield Christian has an opening for a varsity girls golf coach and a part-time athletic trainer.
Those interested should contact athletic director Blake Van Der Schaaf at (661) 410-7000 or via email at email@example.com.
Blaze's rally falls short
The Blaze lost a contentious 7-5 game at Rancho Cucamonga on Monday despite a four-run rally in the ninth inning.
Bakersfield third baseman David Vidal, manager Ken Griffey, Sr. and pitching coach Rigo Beltran were all ejected in the first eight innings, which were dominated by the Quakes (42-54).
Four different Rancho Cucamonga players homered, and the Quakes had out-hit the Blaze 14-2 and led 7-1 headed to the ninth inning. But a walk, two singles and a wild pitch got Bakersfield (37-59) two runs, and Juan Duran homered to cut the lead to 7-5.
The tying run eventually reached the plate with two outs in the ninth, but Matt Shelton induced Yovan Gonzalez to ground into a forceout.
Quakes starter Lindsey Caughel (3-5) struck out nine, walked none and allowed just one hit in seven innings. The only batter to reach base against him was Duran, who hit an infield single in the second.
After the game, it appeared the Blaze might be receiving some help. Right-handed pitcher Robert Stephenson, the No. 2 prospect in the Reds organization according to Baseball America, announced via Twitter that he had been called up to Bakersfield from Class A Dayton.
Stephenson, a Martinez native, tweeted, "so excited to go home!!!! #onestepcloser @BakoBlaze".
In 14 starts for Dayton, Stephenson was 5-3 with a 2.57 ERA, a 0.99 WHIP and 96 strikeouts in 77 innings.