KINGSBURG – The shoulders of the Kingsburg High football players drooped and fans sighed. 

Viking quarterback Caleb Buendia was intercepted with less than a minute left in the first half of Thursday night’s game with Chowchilla and the ball was returned for a touchdown, giving the Tribe a seven-point lead.

“I’d say we were disappointed, not deflated,” said Kingsburg coach David Wilson whose team rallied for a 20-14 victory. “We knew we had work to do. It would have been easy for Caleb to get down on himself in the second half, instead he played really well.”

Buendia, a stocky, two-sport star, threw touchdown passes of 10 and 37 yards to Nathan Gamble in the third quarter as Kingsburg turned a 14-7 deficit into a victory.

“Coach said to just forget about it and have fun,” Buendia said.

Buendia’s strike to Gamble on third-and-10 from the 10 tied the game at 14. Then Kingsburg recovered an onside kick and the pass-catch combo clicked again, with Buendia finding a wide-open Gamble deep over the middle for a long touchdown that put Kingsburg ahead by six (Buendia steered the PAT kick wide left) with 3:39 left in the third quarter.

“We executed it perfectly – just the way it was drawn up,” said Gamble, who said Kingsburg tight end Tyler Stone cleared out the Chowchilla safety. “Caleb made a great pass.”

There was still plenty of time (5:26) left and the Tribe began a march from their own 23 that took them to a fourth-and-two at the Kingsburg 46 with 2:06 left. Chowchilla quarterback Cody Woolsey tried to run for it, but was stopped inches short by the Vikings’ defense, including such stalwarts as Seth Costi and Cole Dias.

The Vikings (7-4) then ran out the clock.

“We needed to stop them,” Costi said. “We hit each other hard and I think it hurt both of us. I was pretty amazed that we stopped him and it was a big turning point.”

The victory moves Kingsburg into the Central Section Division III quarterfinals where they will meet host Bakersfield Christian at 7 p.m. Friday.

Coincidentally, Kingsburg’s meeting with Chowchilla came 50 years after the programs met in a 1967 opening-round game. The Tribe (then known as the Redskins) prevailed on that night, 33-14.

It was a nice bounce-back victory for Kingsburg, which fell to rival Selma 27-0 in the battle for the fire extinguisher the week before.

Buendia completed 6-of-12 passes for 70 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. 

Bo Jackson led the Vikings in rushing with 23 carries for 102 yards and one TD. Gamble added 13 carries for 83 yards and Buendia rambled 13 times for 57 yards. 

Woolsey led Chowchilla's offense with 16 carries for 107 yards and one TD. 

John Murphy can be reached at 583-2413 or