BVarsity Blog

Thursday, Aug 08 2013 09:56 PM

2013 HS football previews: Bakersfield Christian

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BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer zewing@bakersfield.com

The first scrimmage of USC's training camp was Thursday afternoon, and Cody Kessler was nothing if not efficient: 12-of-16 for 121 yards and a touchdown, though he did jam a couple of fingers and fumble a snap. His main competition for the starting job, Max Wittek, was 13-of-20 for 193 yards and two TDs, though it should be noted Kessler worked mostly vs. the No. 1 defense and Wittek against No. 2. They'll switch those roles in the Trojans' next scrimmage next week, with coach Lane Kiffin saying next to nothing about the battle.

With that said, it's on to the final South Sequoia League team in our team preview series, and the first 11-man team from the city. That's Bakersfield Christian, and you'll see below why the Eagles are a difficult team to forecast.

Countdown to Week 0: 22 days

BAKERSFIELD CHRISTIAN EAGLES

Coach: Jerald Pierucci (second year)

2012 record: 10-3 (5-1 South Sequoia League, 6-1 home, lost 29-22 at Wasco in Division IV championship)
Average points: 25.7
Average points allowed: 22.2
Average rush yards: 224.9
Average rush yards allowed: 150.2
Average pass yards: 148.3
Average pass yards allowed: 135.0
Best win: Bakersfield Christian 7, Tulare-Mission Oak 0
Worst loss: Ontario Christian 31, Bakersfield Christian 7
*—yardage figures are from MaxPreps and are only used if at least half of games are available. Take them with a grain of salt. Figure could be skewed depending on which games, if any, are missing

Key player: Matt Smith, jr, RB/DL; Grant Bouma, sr, TE/DL; Brandon Jones, jr, QB/DB; Josh Jackson, sr, WR/DB; Hayden Kuchta, sr, QB/WR/LB

Key losses: Jake Thompson, QB/LB; Zach Murillo, OL/DL; Connor Kingsbury, OL/DL; Bryson Wind, OL/DL

Offense: The Eagles have a ready replacement for three-year starter Jake Thompson at quarterback — but the CIF might have thrown a giant wrench into those plans. Brandon Jones, a 6-foot-2 junior, transferred from Bakersfield High and was all set to become an immediate impact player, said Eagles coach Jerald Pierucci, but earlier this week the CIF rendered Jones ineligible for the season's first 30 days. That would cost him six games, but Jones and his father have told Central Section commissioner Jim Crichlow they plan to appeal the decision by applying for a hardship waiver. If Jones does miss time, Hayden Kuchta will become the quarterback for the Eagles' first six games. Kuchta is capable, but the offense would miss him at H-back and receiver. Either way, BCHS has a great safety net in third-year starting running back Matt Smith, who covered 1,828 yards as a sophomore last year. Receivers Josh Jackson and Kuchta both had big years as juniors. The question mark will be the offensive line, where three seniors graduated and Bakersfield Christian lacks depth, especially because another transfer, Jon Martineau (from Centennial) is also out for 30 days. If and when Jones and Martineau are able to play, this can be a very complete unit. If not, it's still very capable.

Defense: There is less uncertainty on this side of the ball, though depth on the line is still going to be a question mark. To help, the Eagles moved Grant Bouma, an All-Area linebacker a year ago, down to defensive end and will start Smith — a state finalist in the discus — at the other end. BCHS can afford to do that because the back seven is deep and talented. Jackson made six interceptions last year (he also made 10 catches on offense in the Division IV championship game at Wasco). Keith Blanks and Donald Harris also return to the secondary. If Bouma and Smith are able to put pressure on the backfield — and they should be able to — this has a very good chance to be a ball-hawking defense that wins a lot of games.

Outlook: After winning back-to-back Division V section championships in 2007 and 2008, the BCHS program hit a several-year lull brought on by coaching turnover, lower enrollment and a lack of depth. Pierucci believes the program came out of it in the second half of last season, and the proof is in the finish: Three straight wins to end the regular season, then impressive playoff victories over Fowler and Tulare-Mission Oak to get another shot at mighty Wasco, which came back to keep the Eagles from a giant championship upset. This year's team can build on that, and Pierucci thinks the future is even brighter. BCHS has enough players to field a freshman team for the first time in five years, and Pierucci has the Eagles on a conditioning and weight program that he thinks will pay more and more dividends as time goes by. The eligibility of Jones will play a big role in how well BCHS does in the early part of the season — if he plays, the Eagles have a chance to run through their first six games unbeaten — perhaps with one loss to much bigger Huntington Beach in Week 0. After that, they could set up an enormous Week 7 showdown at home with Wasco, where the winner likely will have the inside track to the No. 1 seed in Division IV and a shot at a state bowl game. That's heady talk, but it's realistic if BCHS stays healthy, given the amount of talent coming back and the balanced roster.

Quotable: "The biggest thing is confidence. It's no longer, 'Hey, let's see how things are going.' Kids are confident that every game they go into they can win. The big game for us was the Mission Oak (semifinal) game. They were huge, and you could tell they were good. That was the game where we felt like we deserved to be (a championship team.)" — Pierucci

Schedule: Aug. 30 at Huntington Beach
Sept. 6 at Visalia-Central Valley Christian
Sept. 13 BYE
Sept. 20 Exeter
Sept. 27 Chavez*
Oct. 4 at Kennedy*
Oct. 11 Shafter*
Oct. 18 Wasco*
Oct. 25 at South
Nov. 1 at Taft*
Nov. 8 at Arvin*
*—SSL game

Prediction: 8-2, 5-1 SSL

2013 HS football preview index
Aug. 1: 8-man schools
Aug. 2: Burroughs, Boron, Desert
Aug. 3: Rosamond, California City
Aug. 4: Frazier Mountain, Kern Valley
Aug. 5: McFarland, Delano, Kennedy
Aug. 6: Chavez
Aug. 6: Shafter
Aug. 7: Arvin
Aug. 7: Taft
Aug. 8: Wasco

Tomorrow: Mira Monte

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