BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
The schools are so old that they've each changed names and had graduates fight in both World Wars.
The football programs are so storied that no one's even sure how many games they've won -- only that no other school in California has won more.
Catch picks for all of the Kern games on Zach's blog at: bakersfield.com/ schoolhousezach
Long Beach Poly 31, Bakersfield 26
Frontier 27, Clovis North 23
Clovis 31, Stockdale 21
Liberty 35, Clovis-Buchanan 10
Newhall-Hart 52, Ridgeview 21
Tehachapi 21, Arvin 13
The latest meeting between Long Beach Poly and Bakersfield happens at 7 tonight at Griffith Field, and it should do the schools' history proud: Both teams come in ranked in Cal Hi Sports' state top 20, and both have state-championship aspirations.
"Everybody's excited, there's no doubt," Bakersfield coach Paul Golla said. "I think our kids believe that, if we do what we do, we'll be all right. If we try to do more than that, we'll be in trouble."
Long Beach Poly (2-1) comes in as the state's No. 9 team after beating then-No. 2 Corona-Centennial 35-28 last week. Bakersfield (2-1) is No. 20 and coming off a 56-7 win against Garces.
"Our kids clicked and played at a high emotional level," Golla said. "It was exciting to see that."
The historical tale of the tape is just as fascinating:
* Bakersfield High School opened in 1893 as Kern County Union High School. The Drillers have 35 section championships and six state championships, both California records. They have 738 all-time victories -- if you count rugby from 1910-14, when the sport was played because football was considered too dangerous. If you don't count rugby, the total is 726.
* Long Beach Polytechnic High School opened in 1895 as Long Beach High School. The Jackrabbits have 19 section titles, and they won the first state championship game, in 1919. They have 723 all-time wins, second-best to Bakersfield.
Neither school has won a state title since the CIF implemented its bowl system in 2006.
Mike Guardabascio, preps editor for the Long Beach Press-Telegram and author of a book on Long Beach football history, said the similarities between the schools go beyond that.
"I think it's so cool," he said, "I'm so glad they're playing these games, looking into history, because it's not like they're the winningest schools because they were just good in the '30s and '40s and then haven't won. They've been consistently good for a century."
Guardabascio said the Jackrabbits, who play their home games at Long Beach City College, also enjoy a passionate fan base and tend to draw in anyone in the city who didn't attend one of the other schools.
Poly has an enrollment of more than 5,000 and boasts famous alumni in wide-ranging areas, from Snoop Dogg to DeSean Jackson, from Billie Jean King to Tony Gwynn, from John Wayne to Cameron Diaz. Poly has had more football players reach the NFL than any other high school in the country.
And yet, Bakersfield beat Poly 29-6 last year and is 3-2-1 against the Jackrabbits all-time (only two meetings, a Poly victory in 2010 and Bakersfield's win last year, have come in the past 70 years.)
"Last year, we matched up well," Golla said. "They might have guys with faster 40 (yard dash) times, but football speed is different from track speed. We'll find out in a hurry."
All four starters in Poly's defensive backfield have scholarship offers from Division I programs, including senior safety John Smith and junior cornerback Iman Marshall, both of whom recruiting services have ranked among the top five defensive backs in the country for their respective class.
Bakersfield will counter with its option offense. Dual-threat quarterback Asauni Rufus, running backs Jeremiah Reddick, Johnathan Malone and Derrick Vickers and wide receiver Kevin Hayes have taken turns making big plays as the Drillers have averaged 47 points per game this season.
And so, two schools who have gotten awfully used to winning football games get together tonight for a big one. It's high school football at its very finest.
"It's exciting to play a (top 10) team in California," Golla said. "We want to play No. 1. It's great for our program, good for our kids. It's all pluses. It's No. 1 in all-time wins vs. No. 2 in wins, and it's exciting."
But that's not all
While Bakersfield carries the flag for the Central Section against a big-name opponent, three teams from the Drillers' Southwest Yosemite League take on teams from the section's other dominant league, the Tri-River Athletic Conference.
Frontier (2-1) hosts Clovis North (2-1) in a game between the defending SWYL champion and the defending Division I section champion. The Titans and Broncos have both lost one game on the road against a Southern Section opponent.
Stockdale (1-1) travels to defending TRAC champion Clovis (2-1), looking to avenge lopsided losses in this series each of the past two seasons.
And Liberty (3-0) is at Clovis-Buchanan (0-2), trying to keep its record unbeaten after a big triple-overtime road win against TRAC opponent Fresno-Central two weeks ago. The only other meeting between the leagues so far was Clovis' 28-21 win against Centennial last week.
Elsewhere, Ridgeview (2-1) travels to face state No. 21 Newhall-Hart of the Southern Section, Tehachapi (1-2) is at Arvin (2-1) and South (2-0) tries to remain unbeaten at home against East (1-1).