When the score tightened, Bakersfield High left its hopes in the hands of quarterback Asauni Rufus on Friday night.
Rufus rushed for 171 yards and was 10-for-15 passing for 146 yards to help power the Drillers to a 45-21 win over host Stockdale to close out the Southwest Yosemite League season.
"It was a great way to wrap it up," Bakersfield coach Paul Golla said.
The Drillers improved to 8-2 overall and went 3-2 in the SWYL. They will learn today about their playoff status.
"This is why you work so hard," Golla said of the postseason. "Why you work all summer. Why you give up vacations. It's playoffs. It's do-or-die."
Bakersfield looked like it would blow out the Mustangs (5-5, 3-2 SWYL) after Marcus Bruce had touchdown runs of 30 and 2 yards and Rufus had a 2-yard touchdown run to build a 21-0 lead with 8:25 left in the second quarter.
Stockdale didn't give up.
D.J. Martin followed up Stockdale gains of 34 and 42 yards with a 2-yard touchdown run with 7:23 left in the half.
The Drillers countered with Jeremiah Reddick's 9-yard run with 38 seconds left in the half to make it 28-7 after Stockdale quarterback Drew Allen lost a fumble while being sacked inside the Stockdale 30.
But it got interesting in the third quarter.
Xavier Chisolm broke loose for a 58-yard touchdown run for Stockdale. After a punt into the end zone, Martin ripped off an 80-yard touchdown run. Suddenly, it was 28-21 with two minutes left in the third quarter.
"We came way back," Stockdale coach Mike Snow said. "We needed one more stop but we couldn't get it."
That's when Rufus took over by expertly leading the offense with his own runs and some well-placed passes to Kevin Hayes.
The drive stalled, but Parker Campbell, who missed two earlier field goal attempts, kicked one from 38 yards to make it 31-21 with 8:18 left.
"That field goal was huge," Snow said.
Stockdale's next drive stalled, but Dean McBride's 60-yard punt pinned the Drillers back at their own 9-yard line.
Rufus again led a ball-control drive that ate time off the clock. Reddick put the game out of reach with a 54-yard TD run with 1:30 left. The Drillers added another touchdown in the final seconds on Derrick Vickers' 65-yard interception return.
Stockdale is also focused on the playoffs, Snow said.
"It looked bad when we were 1-3 after four games but we won four in a row and played for a league championship last week," Snow said.
Reddick had 115 yards on 12 carries. Martin led Stockdale with 195 on 15 carries. Anthony Wood had 80 on 10 carries.