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Bakersfield's Johnathon Malone runs a gain with Mission Hills (22) in pursuit during first half action.

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Mission Hills running back Anthony Bautista tries to break loose from the grasp of Bakersfield's Nathaniel Stancil and other Driller defenders in the first half Friday night at San Marcos Mission Hills High School.

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Driller quarterback Asauni Rufus holds up the championship trophy follwing the victory over Mission Hills.

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Driller quarterback Asauni Rufus holds the championship trophy follwing the victory over Mission Hills. Head coach Paul Golla is to the left of Rufus.

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Bakersfield wide receiver Derrick Vickers outruns Mission Hill defensive backs Nate Olson (2) and Esteban Senteno after hauling in a 47-yard pass to set up the winning touchdown over Mission Hills late in the fourth quarter.

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Bakersfield quarterback Asauni Rufus stiff arms Esteban Senteno as he races for a long gain in the fourth quarter against Mission Hills. The Drillers won the Southern California regional bowl game 35 to 28 to advance to next Friday's State Championship game.

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Bakersfield lineman Dimas Ramos, right, opens a hole for running back Marcus Bruce in the second half againist Mission Hills. Johnathon Malone is at left. The Drillers won the game 35-28 to advance to next week's Division I state championship.

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Driller Derrick Vickers had 7 receptions for 101 yards and also a rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter.

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Bakersfield running back Jeremiah Reddick runs for the tying touchdown in the fourth quarter pulling Mission Hills Nate Ostrom with him.

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Driller quarterback Asauni Rufus gets the pitch off to running back Johnathon Malone as he is dragged down by the Mission Hills defense in the third quarter.

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The Bakersfield High School Drillers celebrate their 35-28 victory over Mission Hills to advance to the state dvision I championship game next Friday.

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Bakersfield fans made the long trip to San Marcos and packed the stands to cheer the Drillers to victory over Mission Hills 35-28.

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The Bakersfield High School Drillers pose for photos after beating Mission Hills to advance to the state championship next week. Quarterback Asauni Rufus holds the trophy.

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Bakersfield running back Johnathon Malone breaks free from Mission Hill's Kameron Canteen in the first half.

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Bakersfield's Derrick Vickers turns up field in the second quarter with the help of Driller linemen, including Dillon Littles (54). Mission Hills' Esteban Senteno is at left.

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The Mission Hills defense had a hard time containing BHS running back Derrick Vickers.

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Bakersfield receiver Coleman Olivas hauls in this 64-yard pass in the third quarter of the CIF Southern California Division I regional bowl game against Mission Hills.

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Driller quarterback Asauni Rufus drags one third of the Mission Hills defense with him on a keeper to keep a fourth quarter drive alive.

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Too little, too late. Mission Hills defensive backs Nate Ostrom (2) and Esteban Senteno finally catch up to Derrick Vickers after the Driller receiver caught a 47-yard pass to set up Bakersfield's go-ahead touchdown in the final two minutes of the game. BHS won 35-28 and will be playing in next week's state championship game.

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Driller fans who arrived early wait for the gates to open at Mission Hills High School stadium for the CIF Southern California Division I regional bowl. BHS fans came by car and charter bus to pack the visitor grandstands.

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Driller Man and the BHS cheerleaders dance and cheer before the start of the CIF Southern California Division I regional bowl game against Mission Hills.

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BHS head football coach Paul Golla holds the CIF Southern California Division I regional bowl championship plaque high following the Drillers' victory over Mission Hills (in the background).

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The head Driller is pleased. BHS head coach Paul Golla is all smiles as he watches his team celebrate winning the CIF Southern California Division I regional bowl game over Mission Hills.

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The Bakersfield High Drillers pass the CIF Southern California Division I regional bowl championship plaque around for everyone to touch following their victory over Mission Hills in San Marcos.

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It was standing room only on the visitor's side for Driller fans who made the trip to San Marcos for the game against Mission Hills. This photo shows only a portion of the fans who packed the stands.

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Derrick Vickers leaps into the end zone for the Drillers' first touchdown against Mission Hills in the first quarter. Esteban Senteno is at right.

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The Driller band cheers a Bakersfield second half touchdown against Mission Hills.

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A packed BHS grandstand watches as Bakersfield running back Jeremiah Reddick reaches in for the tying touchdown in the fourth quarter, pulling Mission Hills' Nate Ostrom with him.

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The BHS defense flattens Mission Hills' running back Anthony Bautista.

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Mission Hills defenders like Scott Higgins, left, and Troy Warner, right, had a hard time containing Driller running back Derrick Vickers.

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Bakersfield quarterback Asauni Rufus follows his offensive line into the end zone for the winning touchdown with just 51 seconds left to beat Mission Hills in the CIF Southern California Division I regional bowl game in San Marcos. The Drillers now move on to the state championship game next Friday.

SAN MARCOS — For months, Bakersfield High drained the drama from its games, routing teams before the fourth quarter had started and generally making high school football look easy.

There was none of that here Friday night, not with Mission Hills leading most of the way and the BHS fighting from behind. But time after time, when the Drillers needed a play, they found one, and they left with a 35-28 victory over the host Grizzlies in the CIF Southern California Division I regional bowl game.

“We did what we did the whole season,” said senior quarterback Asauni Rufus, who was 10-for-10 passing for 224 yards and ran for the game-winning touchdown with 51 seconds left. “That’s what we’ve been training to do. The whole night, it was just like, ‘OK, we got to battle back.’”

Rufus set up his 1-yard winner with a 47-yard pass to Derrick Vickers in the final two minutes, and then Vickers intercepted Mission Hills quarterback Connor Wynn with 35 seconds left to seal victory.

The Drillers play the Northern Cal champion, Loomis-Del Oro, in the Division I state bowl championship at 8 p.m. Friday at the StubHub Center in Carson.

“It’s surreal,” Bakersfield coach Paul Golla said. “We talked about it in January when we started the season. And what’s awesome is that this is life, too. If you work hard and make sacrifices, you’re going to be successful.”

Bakersfield (12-2) made a couple of first-half sacrifices it would like to take back: Two fumbles inside the Mission Hills 5-yard line. The Grizzlies (12-2) recovered both and led 14-7 at halftime on the strength of two Wynn touchdown passes.

“When you turn the ball over twice, you already have a 78 percent chance of losing,” Golla said. “So that’s in the back of your head. But we were moving the ball, and we knew we had to keep going.”

Bakersfield tied the game late in the third quarter on a 1-yard Jeremiah Reddick run — but Mission Hills answered with Wynn’s 44-yard running touchdown on the first play of the fourth.

“Word coming out of (Bakersfield) was that it would be a boat race,” Mission Hills coach Chris Hauser said. “There were some pretty mean, cruel things said on some (websites) up there, and you know what? We come ready to play. We have tremendous respect for Bakersfield and that community, and we hope that (Bakersfield) gained some respect for us.”

Back and forth the teams went. Lameshio Hill caught a Rufus pass along the sideline, fought off two defenders and scored from 51 yards away to tie the game, 21-21, with 10:53 left. But Wynn, who threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 98 yards and two more scores, ran for a 31-yard touchdown and a 28-21 Mission Hills lead with 6:13 remaining.

“This hurts a lot,” Wynn said. “It was my last game in high school, and it’ll sting for a while. I thought we played as well as we could. They played a great game, too. Their offense is really good. They have great playmakers everywhere, and their defense is very exotic. We’d never seen anything like it.”

Trailing by a touchdown, Bakersfield stuck to its running-game roots, getting a 27-yard run from Rufus, who finished with 72 rushing yards, and then a 13-yard run around left end from Reddick to tie the game.

Then, the BHS defense forced three straight incompletions for the first time all night and got the ball back. Rufus’ key deep ball to Vickers came on second-and-13. Vickers got behind the defense, caught the ball in stride and fell to the Mission Hills 13-yard line.

“Our wide receivers, if it’s one-on-one, we feel like we’re going to take it,” said Vickers, who finished with seven catches for 101 yards. “We feel like nobody can guard us. Asauni puts it up, and we go get it.”

At that point, Rufus’ perfect passing night was complete, and the senior who’s headed to Nevada as a defensive back proved he can throw the ball a little bit, too.

“People don’t know that I’ve trained my whole life to play quarterback,” said Rufus, who completed 9 of 10 passes in the Central Section championship game. “I’ve spent countless hours working on footwork, doing drills with Derek Carr, by myself, all the time. People don’t know, but I don’t pay attention. I know I can play quarterback.”

Three plays later, Rufus put the Drillers ahead for the first time since the game’s opening drive. Then Vickers ended it with a pick.

“We’re in a state championship game,” Golla said. “How rare is that?”

Here’s how rare: Bakersfield will play in a state championship game for the first time since 1927, when what was then known as Kern County Union High School beat Fullerton for its sixth state title. The state didn’t hold another state championship game until 2006.

“Hard work pays off,” Rufus said. “We’re excited. And with God’s blessing, we’ll have a state title.”