BY JEFF EVANS AND ZACH EWING Californian staff writers
CARSON -- The seeds for this year's CIF Div. I playoff bowl winning Bakersfield High Drillers were sown two years ago.
Quarterback Asauni Rufus, wide receiver-cornerback Kevin Hayes and running back-linebacker Jeremah Reddick are three of the seven Bakersfield seniors who started as sophomores on an unbeaten Central Section championship team.
The frustrating part of the 2011 season: that team wasn't selected to play in a state bowl championship.
This year's team was given a chance and capitalized with a comeback victory over San Marcos-Mission Hills last week and then the state-title rout.
"There's so much great football in California that somebody is bound to get left out," Drillers coach Paul Golla said. "We were just blessed to have a shot this year."
U.S. Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) entered the StubHub Center near the end of the Bakersfield Christian-Central Catholic game and he stayed to watch the Division I final from the Drillers' sideline.
McCarthy, a BHS graduate, wore a navy blue Drillers jacket.
"Hey, once a Driller, always a Driller," McCarthy said. "It's just great for Kern County to have two teams represented here at the state championships. We wanted to be here to show our support."
Bakersfield football Hall of Famer Marshall Dillard and other former BHS stars, including basketball standout Otis Jennings, also attended the game and watched from the sideline.
Frank Gifford from the 1940s called to show his support.
Strong local showing
A large Bakersfield High cheering section filled most of the lower deck of the StubHub Center's east side long before the earlier Bakersfield Christian game had ended. That gave the Eagles a larger cheering section -- and it gave the CIF a nice gate.
The official two-game session attendance was 5,923. That's a bit lower than last year's Friday total of 7,361, when nearby Long Beach Poly played in the Division I game, but still a hefty total for a game contested by two teams from north of the Grapevine.
Working the refs
On BCHS' second pass completion of the game, Zach Balfanz gained 11 yards after teammate Josh Jackson got between a defender and Balfanz to give quarterback Brandon Jones a more open look.
Modesto-Central Catholic coach Roger Canepa went wild on the sidelines, screaming that was offensive pass interference.
Later, the Eagles were twice called for offensive interference, nullifying two completions. One of the plays appeared to be a bad call, with Jackson blocking a defender after the pass was completed.
"That's the way I coach," Canepa said. "They were borderline. I thought one was a pick. ... I'm a pretty aggressive guy. After 29 years, if you miss a call I'm going to give it to you."
Banged up but not out
BCHS' Donald Harris was carried off the field and appeared to be unable to put any weight on his legs in the first half. But he was back out on the field on the next BCHS drive and caught two passes for 40 yards after returning.
And wide receiver Balfanz left the field with his left arm hanging limp after a 39-yard reception in the first half. Like Harris, he returned to the field quickly.
"Those were game 15 injuries," BCHS coach Jerald Pierucci said. "By this time of the year a lot of guys are banged up. But they were OK and they got right back out there."