Sunday, Dec 08 2013 09:17 PM

Drillers to head south for state playoffs; BCHS awaits fate

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    Bakersfield receiver Kevin Hayes sprints past a diving Arnold Lopez of Clovis North in the second quarter at Griffith Field. BHS won the Central Section Division 1 title 60-21.

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    Bakersfield quarterback Asauni Rufus celebrates with BHS teammates, fans and coaches after the Drillers beat Clovis North 60-21 in the Division 1 title game at Griffith Field.

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    BHS seniors Dimas Ramos, left, and Derrick Vickers, center, celebrate the Driller's Central Section Division 1 Championship over Clovis North.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    The winning BCHS team celebrates at the CIF championship game Friday against Mission Oak High School in Tulare 35-34.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    BCHS fans cheer their team on Friday while playing against Mission Oak High School in Tulare.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Mission Oak runningback Elijah Porchia fumbles the ball as he is tackled by BCHS player Hayden Kuchta.

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BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer

The Bakersfield High football team is ready to drill on a state-championship level again, nearly 90 years after the storied program won its last California title.

The CIF selected Bakersfield High on Sunday to play in its Division I Southern California regional bowl game at 7:30 p.m. Friday at San Marcos-Mission Hills High in northern San Diego County.

The winner of that game will play the Northern California Division I bowl winner in the D-I state championship Dec. 20 at the StubHub Center in Carson.

"It's an exciting day," Drillers coach Paul Golla said. "It's exciting for our kids, and that's the first thing, more than anything. This is a group of kids that works hard. But I'm excited for our alumni. Bakersfield High is such a special place, and we have so many fans. I don't know how many emails and phone calls I got today. For us to be here, and for the state to think we're good enough to be in this spot, it's special."

Bakersfield (11-2) became eligible for a bowl game with a 60-21 rout of Clovis North in the Central Section Division I championship on Friday at Griffith Field for its state-record 36th section title, but the Drillers needed the CIF commissioners to choose them over two other section champions -- San Diego-Cathedral Catholic and L.A.-Crenshaw -- to get into a bowl for the first time.

Bakersfield Christian, meanwhile, must wait another day to find its bowl fate. The Eagles (11-2) seem like an obvious choice to be selected for the Southern Cal Division IV game after they beat previously undefeated Tulare-Mission Oak 35-34 for the section's D-IV title on Friday, but the CIF didn't make an announcement on that matchup Sunday. Instead, it issued a statement saying it would wait until today to allow El Cajon-Christian to challenge a CIF eligibility ruling in court.

El Cajon-Christian has legally challenged the CIF to be included in Division IV. CIF guidelines state that a school is eligible for Div. IV if it is a Div. III school with enrollment of fewer than 500. ECC's enrollment is 390, but it plays in a San Diego Section division that is considered Division II. If ECC (12-1) wins its challenge, it appears to be an easy selection for the D-IV bowl game opposite Bakersfield Christian. If El Cajon Christian loses, then the only other eligible opponent for BCHS would be L.A.-View Park Prep, which is 12-0 but has played a much softer schedule than either of the other teams.

"We're in but we don't know who we're going to play; that's how we're looking at it," said BCHS coach Jerald Pierucci, who exchanged film with El Cajon-Christian coaches but hasn't been able to make contact with View Park.

BCHS has applied to host its bowl game, which it likely would do at Centennial because the BCHS home stadium doesn't meet the CIF requirement of 2,000 capacity. Pierucci said that, depending on the court ruling today, the schools might ask the CIF to move the game to Saturday to allow an extra day of preperation.

That won't be an issue for Bakersfield, which exchanged film with Mission Hills on Saturday in anticipation of this matchup. BHS has won nine games in a row, all against Division I opponents, by an average of 36.1 points, but Mission Hills appears to be stronger than any of those. The Grizzlies are ranked No. 55 nationally by Calpreps' computer ratings, and Bakersfield is No. 56.

Bakersfield has won six state championships in its history, but the most recent came in 1927. After that year, California didn't have a state-championship system until the CIF started bowl games 79 years later.

Mission Hills (12-1) won the San Diego Section Open Division, beating Oceanside 36-14 for the title last Monday. They feature two linebackers committed to Division I college programs, Ricky Liuchan (Oregon State) and Fred Warner (BYU).

"They're very good; we have to play the best we have all season, that's for sure," Golla said. "... We have to start over on Monday. There are still things we can improve. Our goal every week is to get 10 percent better. If we can do that this week, we'll be a pretty dang good football team by Friday.

"... There's something special in our locker room. Win, lose or draw, it's special. We have guys that want to be coached and pushed. This is one of those teams you don't want to leave, and now we get at least five more days with them."

Bakersfield Christian, too, is ready for its season to keep going.

"It's a coup for our kids and our program and for Bakersfield," Pierucci said. "To have two teams in, that's unheard of unless you're from L.A. or something. I think that's really, really cool for Central Valley football and for Bakersfield football in particular."


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