And here it is. A journey that started back on Aug. 1 is completed with today's final 2013 team preview, the Bakersfield Drillers. Tomorrow brings us the official start of Week 0 and our weekly coverage here at School House Zach.

This is what it will look like, most weeks:

Monday: BVarsity Alumni Report or Other Sports Report
Central Section football rankingsGame-by-game predictions columnBVarsity Preview Show, live at 2 p.m. on (replay posted here later) Live blog and play-by-play coverage from our Game of the Week (live at at 7:30 p.m.) and BVarsity Live at 11 p.m. BVarsity Alumni live coverage or high school live coverageWeek in review

At least five, and as many as seven, days a week, you've got in-depth high school football coverage here. And this week, of course, we'll publish our 40-page annual Kickoff Preview inside Friday's Californian. Pick it up if you get a chance. There are words spilled on all 37 Kern County teams, plus preseason coaches' polls, a couple of feature stories and a Preseason All-Area team. 

If you didn't know it already, School House Zach is the place to go for the best coverage in Kern County. Thanks for making it a great place to write.

Countdown to Week 0: 5 days


Coach: Paul Golla (ninth year)

2012 record: 9-3 (3-2 Southwest Yosemite League, 3-2 home, lost 42-28 at Fresno-Central in Division I quarterfinals)

Average points: 39.6  

Average points allowed: 22.4

Average rush yards: 323.7

Average rush yards allowed: 185.5

Average pass yards: 144.4

Average pass yards allowed: 157.8

Best win: Bakersfield 29, Long Beach-Poly 6

Worst loss: Liberty 28, Bakersfield 17
*—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 players: Asuani Rufus, sr, QB; Kevin Hayes, sr, WR/DB; Marcus Bruce, jr, RB/LB; Jeremiah Reddick, sr, RB/LB; Josh Nunez, sr, OL/DL

Key losses: Kenny Trueba, LB; James Hosey, RB/DB; Parker Campbell, WR/K; Jermaine Ervin, DB

Offense: In three years of covering summer passing-league games, no team impressed me more than this year's Bakersfield High squad. Asauni Rufus, the quarterback, looked sharp, decisive and strong. Kevin Hayes is simply the best wide receiver/defensive back in the county, and it's not close. Lesser-known receivers like Bryce Huggins and Derrick Vickers were solid second and third options, and the defense was great, too (we'll get to that). But here's the thing: Very rarely does Bakersfield do anything on offense during passing league that they actually use in the fall. This is a pistol option offense, and it's going to go on the legs of Rufus, Jeremiah Reddick, Marcus Bruce and Vickers and behind an athletic offensive line. Of course, the Drillers' ability to throw it up to Hayes when they're in trouble is a nice bonus. Bottom line: Avoid turnovers — often the Drillers' bugaboo when things aren't going right — and this unit will be one of the best in the state (and country?), again.

Defense: Here's a stat that surprised me: Kevin Hayes made TEN interceptions last year. I'm surprised not because I don't think Hayes is a great player — he certainly is — but because I couldn't believe that many opposing quarterbacks would continue to test him. But here's why it makes sense: The Drillers essentially have six or seven linebackers on the field, with even the defensive linemen standing up and ready to shoot gaps in the offensive line the moment the ball is snapped. With that kind of pressure, QBs are going to (a) be sacked a lot and (b) hurry their throws to their first read. Who's covering the top receiver? Hayes. And even though he's often left in one-on-one coverage, he wins that battle plenty of times. Marcus Bruce is the other guy to watch here; he had 131 tackles ... as a sophomore. Needless to say, there's all-state potential there. One concern is always the risk of giving up big plays — there is an awful lot of pressure on that secondary. Another could be the lack of size, but BHS hasn't ever had a ton of size under Golla. Hasn't stopped them before.

Outlook: It's easy to fall in love with the idea of this being a team capable of winning Bakersfield's 35th section championship and finally breaking through to a state bowl game. Six sophomores on the 2011 section-championship team are now seniors, and they will be among the section's biggest stars this season. There doesn't appear to be a weakness. Rufus is a year older, and he's bigger and better. Hayes has turned precocious talent into the complete package, on and off the field. Bruce is a defensive wizard. The offensive and defensive line bring back enough parts to feel comfortable. Golla is as good as it gets with a headset on. It's all in place. But here's my reality check: We thought the same thing last year. Bakersfield, ranked in the state's top 5 after a 5-0 start, fell apart with SWYL losses to Liberty and Frontier and then an ugly defeat to Fresno-Central in the section quarterfinals. The guys left blame bad chemistry, and turnovers were an issue, too. The point is, things happen during a season that make it really difficult to go 12-1 or 13-0. That's going to be especially true this season, with a preseason schedule that includes two defending section champions in Wasco and Garces, plus Cal Hi Sports' No. 6 team, Long Beach-Poly, and No. 19 team, Oaks Christian. The Drillers are a great team playing other great teams. Let's sit back and see what happens, shall we?

Quotable: "Normally we're a close-knit, family situation; last year there were times we didn't really feel that way. There were groups instead of a team, and we're not used to that. If we failed, that was it. Our biggest thing this year is that we are one team; everybody's able to coach each other and push each other. It feels a whole lot better, but we look forward to adversity to see what it's really about." — Golla

Schedule: Aug. 30 at Westlake Village-Oaks Christian

Sept. 6 Wasco

Sept. 13 at Garces

Sept. 20 Long Beach-Poly

Sept. 27 Clovis-Buchanan

Oct. 4 BYE

Oct. 11 at Liberty*

Oct. 18 at Independence*

Oct. 25 at Frontier*

Nov. 1 Centennial*

Nov. 8 Stockdale*
*—SWYL game

Prediction: 8-2, 5-0 SWYL

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

Aug. 8: Bakersfield Christian

Aug. 9: Mira Monte

Aug. 10: Golden Valley

Aug. 11: South

Aug. 12: West

Aug. 13: Ridgeview

Aug. 14: North

Aug. 15: Foothill

Aug. 16: Highland

Aug. 17: East

Aug. 18: Tehachapi

Aug. 19: Garces

Aug. 20: Independence

Aug. 21: Centennial

Aug. 22: Stockdale

Aug. 23: Liberty

Aug. 24: Frontier

Tomorrow: Week 0 begins