With so many talented players on offense, the Bakersfield High defense is often overshadowed.
Not this time. The Drillers defense stepped out into the spotlight in a big way on Friday night against Southwest Yosemite League rival Frontier.
The Drillers "D" racked up seven sacks and came up with four turnovers in a 42-21 victory at Frontier.
"I'm very proud of our defense," BHS coach Paul Golla said. "We gave up some big plays on penalties but take those away and defensively we had a great night. I'm very proud because that's one the place all week that we focused on because Frontier has such a good offense.'
Despite committing two turnovers of their own, BHS built a 35-7 third-quarter lead and then withstood a late Frontier rally to record its fourth straight victory.
"Second year in a row we got down early but I thought we did good job of fighting back and at least giving ourselves a chance," Frontier coach Rich Cornford said. "Hats off to the Drillers. They're just extremely well-coached from the way the block to the way they tackle and run their offense and defense."
The Drillers are now 3-1 all-time against the defending league champion Titans, which beat Bakersfield 28-21 last year.
Asauni Rufus had 98 rushing yards and three touchdowns to lead a Drillers offense that was explosive at times but also made several costly mistakes, including numerous penalties.
In total the Drillers had 11 flags for 113 yards in penalties.
"Offensively we played a little sloppy but at this point in the season we really made a lot of goals that maybe we didn't get tonight," Golla said. "It's probably a great learning experience that on Monday we get better from."
Caleb Thompson came off the bench for injured Frontier starting quarterback Evan Moore and fired second-half touchdown passes to Brady Serda (42 yards) and Jasmit Thind (10 yards)
But down 35-21, Frontier's faint hopes were dashed for good when Rufus sprinted up the middle for an 11-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
"The scoreboard is in our favor but there is definitely some stuff we want to fix if we want to get to where we want to be," Rufus said. "It's a great team win. We dug it out. But we're not where we want to be. I know I'm not. And we're a team that strives to get better every day."
BHS led 28-7 at halftime in large part due to its defense, which recorded four first-half sacks and held Frontier to 52 net yards.
Two of the sacks caused fumbles that the Drillers recovered and converted into touchdowns.
Moments after Rufus extended the BHS lead to 21-7 late in the first quarter with a 6-yard touchdown run, Marcus Bruce scooped up a Caleb Thompson fumble and raced 38 yards for a TD.
The score was the 50th total touchdowns (rushing and passing) of Rufus' career.
After Moore left the game with an injured shoulder early in the second quarter, Thompson coughed up the ball when he was leveled in the backfield by Jeremiah Reddick.
An Amone Gragg sack and a bad snap on a Frontier punt gave the Drillers great field position for their second touchdown, an 18-yard run by Marcus Watkins with 1:48 left in the first quarter.
The Drillers led the entire way, jumping out to a 7-0 lead on Derrick Vickers' 53-yard touchdown run immediately after Frontier went three-and-out on the game's opening possession.