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By Shelby Mack / The Californian
BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer email@example.com
UPDATED, 12:54 a.m.: What a night. Liberty shocks Bakersfield, Bakersfield Christian comes back to give Shafter its first loss, D.J. Martin runs for — wait for it — 385 yards against Independence. This one shook up the Central Section, particulary down here in Kern County. A quick stock report before I call it a night. I'll post a full weekly recap on Sunday with a replay of tonight's epic BVarsity Live show.
Stock up: Liberty (you think?), Frontier, Bakersfield Christian, Stockdale, Delano, Tehachapi
Holding steady: Garces, Centennial, South, West, Ridgeview, Foothill
Stock down: Bakersfield, Independence, Shafter, SWYL's playoff seeding
UPDATED, 10:23 p.m.: Another first down for the Patriots is just about going to run the clock out. On the next series, Liberty faces fourth-and-3 from the 8. They'll run the clock to 1:36 and call timeout.
Short pass from Medina to Davis was dropped, and BHS will get it on downs. This would be pretty dramatic if it were a one-score game, but with it 28-17, there's not much the Drillers can do. Reddick gets about three, then Rufus throws incomplete. Third down. 1:06 left. Now a false start against Bakersfield. Third and 12. Rufus will complete to Lamishio Hill for a first down, but we're under a minute now. A penalty to the 31, pass to Hayes to the 41 with 34 seconds left. 8 yards to Hayes. Now incomplete. Reddick runs for the first down, but that might be it.
Liberty moves to 4-2 and 1-0 in the SWYL with the most unlikely of victories: A 28-17 victory over state No. 5 Bakersfield that has shocked the Central Section and the state. Congrats to the Patriots, who were probably the only ones in town who thought this was possible. But we're all believers now.
UPDATED, 10:10 p.m.: Drillers opt against the onside kick. Kick goes deep to Mariscal at his 3. Takes it out, hit at the 17 but still on his feet, hit at the 25 but still on his feet and up to the 30. Drillers trying to strip the ball instead of solid tackling.
Now Corbin Jountti goes to work. 6 yards, then 6 more, now 3 and a facemask penalty. Liberty moving it all the way to the BHS 40, and more important, the clock under 5 minutes as they snap it here. If the Patriots hold on to the ball, it might be turn out the lights for Bakersfield. They'll call their first timeout at 4:47 and Liberty fracing a second-and-8. Jountti gets it and goes left, and he lost yardage there but stayed inbounds. That forces BHS to call its second timeout.
Elsewhere, Frontier leads Centennial 21-7 at the start of the fourth. Stockdale up 55-27 on Independence in a shootout, and Shafter leads BCHS 42-32 in the fourth quarter.
Out of the timeout, Mariscal running around right end. He has a hole — and a first down. 15 yards up to the 25. And that might be all she wrote. Liberty will pull off the stunner here at Griffith Field.
UPDATED, 10:01 p.m.: I need to correct myself: The fumble return at the beginning of this half that was so big for Liberty was from Justin Nieto. I think I had that name wrong earlier.
The Patriots go three-and-out, but a good punt from Zack Sullivan backs the Drillers up to their 18, and BHS has just 8:22 left, trailing 28-10. A pass down the sideline to Hayes gains a bunch of yards, but another flag down. This one's on Liberty, so give the gain of 49 yards to the Liberty 33. Rufus sacked for a big loss on the next snap, then hands a draw to Reddick, and he's got a huge hole. Down inside the 20 to the 17. Two plays later, it's Rufus to Hayes, who spins away from the defender and is in for an easy touchdown. BHS will go for two — no they won't. Campbell's PAT good. Thought the Drillers would try to cut it to 10, but they can go for two if they score again. Anyway, the clock is down to 6:54, so not much time left. 28-17 Liberty.
UPDATED, 9:53 p.m.: If there is any Griffith Field magic, the Drillers should call on it now, because they're down 28-10 with just seconds left in the third quarter.
Bakersfield will start from its 20. Rufus gets about 4 on a keeper, and that's the end of the third. Remember, Bakersfield was down 21 points to Centennial after three in last year's playoffs and came back and won. But this one has a different feel. Bakersfield seems hesistant. We'll see what happens. But if the score holds, Liberty is the first visiting team in more than three years to win on this field, the first since Buchanan did it in September 2009.
Rufus looking deep for Hayes. He's open. Ball is underthrown a bit, but Hayes came back and got it. Could have been a 76-yard TD if the ball leads Hayes out. As it is, it goes down to the Liberty 38. Flag down, but they'll wave it off. First down at the 38. A yard for Rufus, that's all, and then 4 for Reddick, Now Rufus is swallowed up on third down, and it's fourth-and-5. Screen pass for Bruce. Not much there. Tackle made at the line of scrimmage, and Liberty has another stop. The Patriots are going to shock the section, just as they did two years ago against Cody Kessler's great Centennial team. Patriots lead 28-10, clock ticking down to 10 minutes left.
UPDATED, 9:44 p.m.: Liberty on an impressive drive, with Corbin Jountti and Anthony Mariscal running extremely hard and picking up some nice gains. A personal foul on each team, too, as neither group seems capable of keeping its head. The upshot is that the Patriots have the ball, first down at the Bakersfield 27. Deep ball for Ross Puskarich, and it looks like he got pushed. There's the flag. Whoa — they're going to call offensive pass interference. Must have been something I didn't see, because I'm scratching my head. Have been a lot tonight, on both sides.
Anyway, that's huge, because it carries a loss of down. Second-and-25 back at the 42. Mariscal carries for about 3, but it's third-and-long. Medina looking over the middle. Perfect throw again, for Sinnott, who's fighting past about three Drillers and inside the 10. Liberty comes up with a big play at the right time again. Flag down, but it looks like just a sideline warning on Liberty. I guess that's their second, because they're going to mark off 10 yards. First and 10 at the 17. Jountti running over left guard. Big hole. Breaks a tackle. Touchdown, Liberty. Now a flag on the PAT. kenny Trueba burst through the line before the snap. Referees send him to the sideline. Personal foul. Did they eject him? Not sure. Don't think so. He's on the bench, but not back to the locker room. He has been ejected, they've announced. That's the Drillers' leading tackler. Anyway, the touchdown makes this a three-score game. PAT is good, and it's 28-10. What an answer for the Patriots, who are playing the game of their lives right now.
UPDATED, 9:34 p.m.: Liberty will start on its own 20. Big drive here, one way or the other. Jountti gets about 3 on first down, then he's swallowed up on second down. Lost a yard. Third-and-8. Medina in the shotgun. Throwing deep for Sinnott. Off his fingertips, incomplete. Fourth down. Big three-and-out for the Drillers, who will get it back.
The punt from Zack Sullivan is not hit really well, but it's away from Kevin Hayes and gets a nice bounce. Ball dead at the BHS 45, and that's where the Drillers will have it. 5:34 left in the third quarter, so plenty of time for the Drillers if they keep the momentum going. Rufus will keep again. Fights his way for four or five, still on his feet for three more. Nice running sets up second-and-3. Rufus hit in the backfield now, but fights his way forward for about a yard. Give him two, actually. That's an impressive 2-yard run. Third-and-a long 1. Rufus again, and he's got it. Fighting inside the Liberty 40 to the 38. Drillers are playing smashmouth now. Rufus again, five more. Why do anything else at this point? Inside four minutes in the third, but that's enough time for a comeback. Now a handoff to Reddick — and did he fumble? Yes, he did. Liberty has it! Huge play for the Patriots, and that's exactly what they needed. Exactly what they needed, to a T. Patriots ball at their 30.
UPDATED, 9:25 p.m.: This has really been the perfect storm for the Patriots, and they've played their best game of the season on top of it. That's how you lead the state's No. 5 team 21-3. Now. We've seen Bakersfield behind big on this field before, and the Drillers have escaped. Can they do it again? We shall see.
From his 20, Asauni Rufus takes it 5 yards on the option keeper. Bakersfield will need big plays on offense and defense at some point, that's for sure. These methodical drives won't work if Liberty keeps coming with one big play on defense — or BHS makes one big penalty on every drive. On third-and-2, Bruce has the first down right at the 30. Now back-to-back Rufus runs go for 9 and 8 yards, and BHS is driving out to its 47. Three yards for Reddick, then pitch to Hill for four more. Third and 3 at the Liberty 46. Every third down crucial for BHS now. Rufus keeps and has a big gain running right. Option keeper, and he has 16 yards and a first down at the 30. Rufus keeper again. 10 yards and a first down to the 20. Drillers think they've found something with the option game, but now Rufus is swallowed up in the backfield by a host of Patriots. Lost 2. Second-and-12. Louis Amestoy, taping a few feet to my left, says there was a facemask on that play that went uncalled. Now a fullback dive to Reddick. Big push. He's inside the 15, spins away from a man and finally down at the 5. 17 yards and first-and-goal BHS for the first time tonight. Injured Liberty player down, can't tell who it is. He's helped off, but still surrounded by teammates, so I'm not sure who.
Well, Bakersfield has gone with the methodical drive here, and so far so good. Four minutes off the clock, though. We'll see if the Drillers can finish it. Fake to Reddick and Rufus keeps. Touchdown. Campbell's PAT good, and it's 21-10 Liberty. Bakersfield strikes, but it's still a long road back.
UPDATED, 9:15 p.m.; We're back to action, with Jermaine Ervin taking the second half kickoff back to the 20. Bakersfield starts there, trailing 14-3. Lamishio Hill — that's who No. 20 is — takes an option pitch and gets about 3. Now an option to the other side, and Rufus fumbles as he tries to pitch. It bounces off his helmet right to Jacob Thomas, who has it running the other way!!! Touchdown Liberty. The Patriots are getting the bounces tonight, and they're taking full advantage. Flag down, but it's holding against Bakersfield. 21-3 Liberty leads, less than a minute into the third quarter.
UPDATED, 9:10 p.m.: They are playing at Centennial despite the electricity delay, and it's Frontier with a 14-7 lead at halftime. More scores below, including Clovis North losing 29-23 to Clovis West.
Here are some halftime stats from the surprising halftime score here: Liberty 14, Bakersfield 3.
PASSING: L, Josh Medina, 9-12, 169 yards, TD. B, Asauni Rufus, 3-8, 45 yds.
RUSHING: L, Corbin Jountti, 12-44, Anthony Mariscal 1-10. B, Jeremiah Reddick 11-47, Marcus Bruce 6-29, Kyle Pope 2-15.
RECEIVING: L, Kenny Davis 4-70, Christian Sinnott 1-69, TD; Kole Harl 1-26. B, Kevin Hayes 2-36, Kyle Pope 1-9.
TOTAL YARDS: L, 169 passing, 49 rushing, 218 total. B, 45 passing, 91 rushing, 136 total.
UPDATED, 8:47 p.m.: In the big game in the SSL tonight, Bakersfield Christian once led Shafter 12-0, but the host Generals have scored three unanswered touchdowns and lead 21-12 in that one.
But the eyes of the section are on Griffith Field right now, where Liberty leads Bakersfield 14-3 late in the first half. The Drillers will look for points before halftime, starting at their own 20 — Liberty kicked off from the BHS 45 because of the penalty after the touchdown.
Jeremiah Reddick on a counter with an absolutely enormous hole. He's gone. No catching him, and that's an 80-yard TD. No! Flag down. A personal foul on Bakersfield. That. Is. An. Enormous. Call. I didn't see anything — of course, I'm following Reddick downfield. I'm not doubting, but I do hope that ref is sure about that, because that is absolutely a game-changer. Instead of a touchdown, Bakersfield has first-and-20 back at the 10. Now another flag. Sideline warning on BHS, so no yardage this time. Liberty will call timeout. BHS crowd is boisterously booing. This will be fascinating. Can the Drillers respond?
They get nine from Marcus Bruce on first down, then another yard plus a five-yard facemask on second. Rufus keeps and has the first down up at the 31, but time is running low. A couple more runs set up third-and-1 at the 40, and Bakersfield calls its last timeout with 1:08 left in the half. Bruce gets the call again and runs hard up to midfield. First down with exactly a minute left. BHS injury is Angel Santa Cruz. He's helped off after a short delay.
Now a reverse, and No. 20 ends up with the ball — but he's buried under by the Liberty defense. Amazing effort from the Patriots tonight. On third and long, the Drillers quick snap it and go nowhere. Now fourth down. Was there a snap? Ball ended up in a Liberty player's hands, and he's running the other way. Now the refs blow it dead. I don't say this often — but in a game running high on emotions, this refereeing crew has completely lost control of this game. Fourth down. BHS will punt. Clock running, hits zero. I guess we're going to run the play anyway. What a poorly refereed half, and that's not an indictment of the calls that cost BHS touchdowns, just a statement on how control had been lost. Anyway, the important thing is this: Liberty 14, Bakersfield 3.
UPDATED, 8:30 p.m.: Jountti gets the call on second-and-16 and picks up about 3. Now a false start on Liberty, and that takes the ball back to their half of the field. Third-and-long. Medina looking deep for Sinnott. Sinnott makes a nice adjustment and comes back for the ball, but apparently he's standing out of bounds on the far side. Incomplete. But hold it — flag down, and it's roughing the passer. 15 yards and an automatic first down. Another huuuuge penalty called against BHS.
So first down at the 37. Short pass to Kole Harl, and he breaks a tackle and is off to the races. Stumbles out of bounds down at the 11. Patriots in business. Jountti not much on first down. Mariscal gets it on second down. Has a hole and now bulls his way inside the 5, inside the 3, touchdown. Impressive run. Flag down, but it's on the Drillers. Unsportsmanlike conduct after the play. Touchdown stands.
Some confusion before the PAT attempt — not sure what's going on, but they're talking to Liberty coach Tony Mills. Offside penalty on BHS, I think, but Liberty will decline it. Zack Sullivan to kick. And it's good. And Liberty leads state No. 5 Bakersfield 14-3 with 2:44 to go in the half.
UPDATED, 8:22 p.m.: A holding call will doom Liberty's next drive, and the Patriots go three-and-out and will punt from their own 21. After a pause, the punt is picked up by Kevin Hayes at his 38. He starts right, now cuts hard left. Picks up a couple of blocks and runs through tackles. Down the sideline. Flag down. Hayes is going to score, and in spectacular fashion, but this one is coming back. Block in the back. Bakersfield will have to start at its 37.
Rufus keeps for the first time tonight and gets about 4. Now he'll throw short to Pope. Incomplete. Liberty thought maybe that was a live ball, but in my eyes it was definitely a forward pass. Third-and-6. False start on the Drillers. Third-and-11. Liberty crowd is getting quite boisterous, and moreso with every snap. Only the second quarter, but a lead is a lead, and the Patriots look like they belong in this game for sure.
Third down, Rufus will pass. He's hit as he throws. They're calling that a fumble, but Alex Marquez scooped it up for Bakersfield to avert disaster. Still, Liberty forces another punt. It's a good one from Campbell. Sinnott takes it at his 25 and gets a return out to the 32. That's where Liberty will start with a 7-3 lead.
Medina looking deep right for Davis. Perfect throw, outside shoulder, and he's got him. Gain down to the Bakersfield 44, good for 24 yards. Medina is quite the play-maker.
But now he's wrapped up quickly by Reddick, who sacks him back at midfield. Second and long. Bakersfield calls its second timeout before the next snap. 4:12 left in the half.
UPDATED, 8:13 p.m.: Bakersfield takes back over after a touchback, down 7-3, and gives to Reddick. He picks up about 5. Now No. 20 — not sure who that is, James Hosey maybe — gets close to the first down, and Reddick will have it on the next carry. Just a matter of time before the Drillers take a shot downfield like Liberty did, at least one would think.
First down at the 32. Reddick for about 3. Here comes the deep shot. Rufus for Kevin Hayes on a fly pattern along the left sideline. Got him. Perfect. Steps out of bounds up at the Liberty 32.
Now Bruce gets two, and the Drillers will go deep again. This one thrown poorly, and Jermain Ervin had to play defense there just to keep it from being intercepted. On third-and-8, it'll be Bruce carrying, but he's well short of the first down. Campbell on to try a 44-yard field goal. Snap and hold good. Kick is up and ... just wide right. Liberty dodges its own bullet defensively and keeps a 7-3 lead. 8:28 left in the half.
UPDATED, 8:06 p.m.: Play-action pass for Medina, who's under severe pressure again, to start the second. He's got Christian Sinnott open deep — and hits him on the money! Sinnott is off to the races, and no one's in front of him. Wow. A 69-yard touchdown pass. Zack Sullivan's extra point is good, and just like that, Liberty leads 7-3 on the first play of the second quarter.
UPDATED, 8:02 p.m.: A touchback from Campbell, already his 22nd of the year, sets the Patriots up at their 20, down 3-0 early. Corbin Jountti, who only got one carry on that first drive, gets the first touch here and picks up about six, running over left tackle. Now Jountti again, right to the 30 for a first down. His third straight carry bangs ahead for 5 more. Liberty might have changed philosophy here — or they're at least showing they can run the ball, too. Now Medina will throw. Has Kenny Davis again. He makes another man miss and gets up near midifield. That's 14 yards and a first down. Jountti to run. Big hole. Drags a defender past the BHS 40 and to the 37. 14 more yards there, and Bakersfield wants timeout. The Patriots are running plays quickly, and the Drillers seem unprepared. They'll look to regroup.
Jountti gets a couple on the first play out of the timeout, and on second down, Medina under serious pressure. He keeps his cool, though, and dumps it off to his checkdown, Jountti. Nice play, and though that play only netted 3 yards, it could have been a big loss. Third-and-4 instead. Kole Harl running tough. He's short, but by about a yard. Liberty will go for it again. Quick pass this time, and Anthony Mariscal is wide open. He has the first down — and now breaks down the sideline, but he's ruled out of bounds. Still picked up six and the first down. Liberty crowd went absolutely wild for a minute, but the refs ruled play dead at the 23. Now another screen set up, but Mariscal is tripped up in the backfield lost five. Medina was under tremendous pressure again. Second and 15. Jountti has it — fumble! Ball squirts free, right to Jermain Ervin, who falls on it for the Drillers. Bakersfield gets a break there, forces the turnover and takes over.
Marcus Bruce in at tailback for BHS now, and he gets about 4. Now a short pass to Bruce gets about 4 more, but there's a flag down. Holding, and it'll be second and 16 back at the 16. Pitch to Kyle Pope. Good burst ahead, down back at the 26. Third-and-6. Liberty not giving up the big plays thus far, and that's huge. Rufus to pass. Looking for Hayes, but the throw is high and it's broken up. Big stop for Liberty. Drillers with the game's first punt. It'll roll down to the 29 with 41 seconds left int he quarter.
Jountti gets the carry and picks up two or three, and that's going to be the quarter. Bakersfield leads 3-0, but Liberty has looked very equal thus far.
UPDATED, 7:48 p.m.: The lights are on at Centennial! We'll have football there tonight after all, it seems.
Meanwhile, Bakersfield collects an offside penalty from Liberty's defense and then gets a nice burst from Jeremiah Reddick, who gains 12 yards past midfield. First down. Now a pass from Asauni Rufus to Kyle Pope, who's immediately upended but still has 9 yards. Next snap to Reddick, and he's down to the 35 for a first down. Now Rufus swing pass to Pope is low and incomplete. Second down, but offside on Bakersfield will make it second-and-5. Back-to-back Reddick runs get enough for the first down to the 24. Bakersfield driving methodically, which hasn't really been their style this year, but here we are. Now an end-around to Kyle Pope, who gets about 5. Short pass to Kevin Hayes, who's dragged down just short of the sticks. Words between Hayes and the defender after the play. Some bad blood between these teams. Third-and-1. Reddick again. He averages about 10 carries a game, and that was his fifth already on this drive. He has the first down to the 11. He gets his sixth carry for 2 yards, and now Derrick Vickers will take it down to the 5. Third and 4. Rufus play-action pass. Batted down at the line. Didn't see who, but the ball bounced all the way back to the 20. Bakersfield will settle for a field-goal try from Parker Campbell. From 23 yards, it's plenty long and good. Bakersfield leads 3-0 with 5:54 left in the first quarter.
UPDATED, 7:19 p.m.: We're about 15 minutes from kickoff at Griffith Field, where it's homecoming and the state No. 5 Drillers are hosting Liberty tonight in the Southwest Yosemite League opener for both teams. This ought to be a good one.
Another good one would be out at Centennial, where Frontier is visiting, but we have some breaking news: A whole bank of lights on the north side of the stadium has gone out, and there's a chance that game is going to have to be postponed. They've called an electrician out to the stadium, and if the situation is resolved in the next hour or so, they'll still play tonight.
More updates coming from Griffith in the mean time.
ORIGINAL POST: The so-called "second season" of high school football begins tonight, with league play revving up across the Central Section. This isn't the Southern Section, where league finish determines playoff qualifiers, but all of the games seem to mean just a little bit more anyway.
First up on the docket in the marquee Southwest Yosemite League is Liberty at Bakersfield in a matchup of teams expected to contend for a section title. That's where the live blog will be coming from tonight. Bakersfield is 5-0 and ranked No. 5 in the state by Cal Hi Sports; Liberty has looked very good in a close loss to Fresno-Central and routs of Tehachapi and Clovis-Buchanan — and then not so good in a loss to Ridgeview two weeks ago. Both teams are coming off byes.
We'll also have updates from all of tonight's big league openers, including Frontier at Centennial, Independence at Stockdale, Bakersfield Christian at Shafter (which actually isn't a league opener, but you get the idea) and South at West.
I'll also be Californian Radio on 1180 AM at 9:45 this morning to talk some prep football. You can also listen online at www.kernradio.com.
(Central Section rankings in parentheses; all games 7:30 p.m. Friday unless noted)
Kern County scoreboard
(9) Liberty 28, (1) Bakersfield 17
(3) Garces 49, Highland 0
(7) Frontier 24, (15) Centennial 14
(8) Ridgeview 28, Mira Monte 12
(11) Wasco 56, Kennedy 0
(17) Stockdale 68, (24) Independence 34
(20) Tehachapi 42, East 0
Bakersfield Christian 52, Shafter 42
South 25, West 24
Foothill 21, North 0
Arvin 32, Chavez 20
Delano 50, Tulare Western 0
McFarland 48, Riverdale 0
Kern Valley 26, Frazier Mountain 14
Bishop 47, Desert 13
California City 42, Rosamond 33
Burroughs 44, Barstow 18
Boron at Lancaster-Desert Christian, 7 p.m. Saturday
Northwest Christian at Riverdale Christian, 1 p.m. Saturday
Ojai Valley at Maricopa, 7 p.m. Saturday
L.A.-Pilgrim at Immanuel Christian, 4:30 p.m. Saturday
Mojave at Valencia-Trinity Classical Academy, 6:30 p.m. Saturday
Other Central Section scores
(2) Clovis North 53, (16) Clovis West 29
(4) Fresno-Central 50, (22) Clovis-Buchanan 22
(5) Clovis 20, Clovis East 0
(25) Sanger 35, (6) Fresno-Edison 29
Paso Robles 55, (12) Kingsburg 27
(13) Visalia-Mt. Whitney 35, Hanford West 8
(14) Tulare-Mission Oak 20, Porterville 14
(18) Fresno-Bullard 59, Madera South 0
(19) Visalia-Redwood 20, Hanford 13
(21) Dinuba 27, Visalia-Central Valley Christian 7
Dos Palos 28, (23) Mendota 14
Fresno-Sunnyside 44, Fresno 14 (Thursday)
Lindsay 27, Hanford-Sierra Pacific 0 (Thursday)
Fresno-Roosevelt 42, Fresno-Hoover 35 (Thursday)
Fresno-San Joaquin Memorial 35, Madera 33
Tulare Union 40, Porterville-Monache 39
Lemoore 55, Visalia-Golden West 0
Fresno-McLane 28, Reedley 27
Exeter 21, Selma 7
Porterville-Granite Hills at Corcoran
Woodlake 31, Strathmore 28
Chowchilla 29, Kerman 0
Tollhouse-Sierra 9, Fresno-Washington Union 7
Liberty-Madera Ranchos 48, Oakhurst-Yosemite 0
Caruthers 35, O'Neals-Minarets 9
Fowler 48, Parlier 6
Farmersville 44, Orange Cove 8
Orosi 37, Laton 0
Coalinga 49, Avenal 0
Firebaugh 42, Tranquillity 0
Fresno Christian at Woodland Poly
Alpaugh at Coalinga-Faith Christian, 7 p.m. Saturday
Lemoore-Kings Christian at Bermuda Dunes-Desert Christian, 7 p.m. Saturday