Thursday, Jan 19 2012 10:11 PM

Drillers look to strengthen football schedule

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    By Jaclyn Borowski / The Californian

    BHS wide receiver Kevin Hayes runs the ball against Timpview on Saturday morning.

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BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer

Paul Golla's determination to schedule the toughest football schedule possible for Bakersfield High appears to be paying off.

The Drillers, whose relatively weak schedule left them shut out of the CIF's championship bowl games in 2011 despite a 13-0 season and Central Section Division I championship, are close to scheduling games with as many as three traditional Southern Section powers in next year's non-league slate.

Golla, who has won three section titles in seven years with BHS but has never coached in a bowl game, said the Drillers have accepted an invitivation to play in a showcase similar to last year's Mission Viejo Football Classic, this time at Encino-Crespi. Their opponent isn't yet confirmed, but there's a strong possibility that Anaheim-Servite, which finished No. 9 in Cal Hi Sports' state rankings and the 2009 Division II bowl champion, will be the choice.

That would be in Week 1, the weekend of Aug. 31. After that, the Drillers are close to scheduling road games with Long Beach-Poly in a rematch of a 2010 game won 42-28 by Poly and a meeting of the state's most historically successful schools.

There's also a possiblity Bakersfield could play at Vista Murrieta -- the Southern Section Inland Division champion that was undefeated on the field but forfeited five games a year ago -- or Westlake Village-Oaks Christian, the 2006 Division III state bowl champ that has produced names like Jimmy Clausen, Casey Matthews, Malcolm Jones and Nick Montana in the past decade.

Golla, who said he couldn't comment on discussions with specific schools until the games are confirmed, said L.A.-Crenshaw, a City Section playoff team, is willing to travel to Griffith Field in Week 5, Sept. 21.

While the Servite and Poly games are close to official status, Golla said the Drillers have only one confirmed non-league opponent for 2012: Garces.

"A lot of people are stressed out," Golla said, "but we've got to be patient. We're trying to get the best schedule we can."

Bakersfield's 2011 kicked off with a 38-13 victory over Utah power Provo-Timpview in the Mission Viejo Football Classic; Golla acknowledges now that if Bakersfield had played one of the California powers in the Classic instead -- like Mission Viejo or Oaks Christian -- it could have helped the Drillers in their bowl argument.

Instead, the CIF bowl committee chose Rancho Santa Margarita-Santa Margarita, a two-loss team with a tougher schedule, over BHS in Division I. The Eagles beat San Jose-Bellarmine in the bowl game; the Drillers finished No. 10 in Cal Hi Sports' rankings while starting eight sophomores.

This year, the CIF has expanded the bowl system to allow for regional games, doubling the number of teams included. Golla doesn't want to take any chances with his schedule.

"We're trying to be patient and get these games," Golla said. "There's a good chance that we will, but we can't confirm those things. I think the fact that we're 10th in the state gives us a good opportunity."

Other local schools have already confirmed games against prominent Southern Cal opponents:

Centennial will play a Week 0 home game against Mission Viejo after traveling to the Diablos last year, and the Golden Hawks travel to Santa Barbara in Week 4 and also play Visalia-Redwood and Tulare Union at home and at Clovis.

Frontier is at Lompoc, an undefeated Southern Section champion, in Week 1 and host Moorpark the next week. Titans coach Rich Cornford is from Lompoc, which like Bakersfield was left behind when the CIF chose Fresno-Washington Union for the Division III bowl slot. The Titans complete a difficult non-league slate vs. West and Ridgeview and at Clovis North.

"We're really trying to help the Central Section by getting some good Southern Section schools on there," Cornford said.

Liberty also has a tough schedule set, though it's all within the section: at Delano, vs. Fresno-Central, vs. Tehachapi, at Clovis-Buchanan and vs. Ridgeview.

Stockdale is still looking for one non-league opponent but has schedule games at West, at Garces, vs. Clovis and vs. Buchanan.

Garces will play at San Luis Obispo and BHS and is home for Golden Valley and its traditional Holy Bowl game with Fresno-San Joaquin Memorial. The Rams' traditional rivalry with Tehachapi is now a Southeast Yosemite League game in Week 10.

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