In a year of masterful accomplishments, thrills, chills and tragedy, amazing arrivals and significant departures, Bakersfield High's football team shined the brightest.
When the mighty blue and white-clad Drillers earned the Division I state championship Dec. 20 in Carson, it was without a doubt the local sports highlight of the year, as well as another jewel on the crown of the winningest high school football team in California.
Here is a look back at the area's top local sports storylines of the year, in no particular order.
Drillers rise to the top
One of the state's most storied high school football programs returned to glory in spectacular fashion. Bakersfield High won its final 11 games to claim Central Section title No. 36 and its first state championship since 1927 (the state didn't hold state-title games between 1928-2005) with a 56-26 rout of Loomis-Del Oro in the CIF Division I state championship bowl game. Drillers quarterback Asauni Rufus led the way, combining for more than 3,100 rushing and passing yards.
Another local school also reached the state's pinnacle of football. Bakersfield Christian, after losing its first two games of the season, won 12 in a row to win a surprise section Division IV title, beating undefeated Tulare-Mission Oak in the process, and then reaching the D-IV state title game. The Eagles fell 36-23 to defending state champion Modesto-Central Catholic but had the best season in school history. Junior quarterback Brandon Jones tied the section record for touchdown passes with 54, according to section historian Bob Barnett.
Haney leaves 'em in the dust
Blake Haney's brilliant promise turned into just plain brilliance. Haney, a Stockdale junior, became just the second underclassman to sweep the 1,600 meters and 3,200 meters at the CIF State Track and Field Championships in Clovis in June; he can become the second to repeat that double championship this coming season. But that wasn't all for Haney. In July, he placed fifth in the 1,500 meters at the World Youth Championships, finishing with the best time (3:44.69) for an American ever in the event. In November, Haney committed to run for Oregon and finished third in the Division I race at the CIF State Cross Country Championships. He was second in the Nike Cross Nationals a week later.
Clash of QB titans
Just as Bakersfield Christian graduate Derek Carr was entering his final year of a memorable career as Fresno State's quarterback, a new local quarterback moved onto the national stage. Centennial graduate Cody Kessler won the starting QB job at USC by the third week of the season and then led the Trojans to a 10-4 season, culminating with a MVP performance in a 45-20 Las Vegas Bowl victory over -- you guessed it -- Derek Carr's Bulldogs. Carr finished with 5,083 yards and 50 touchdowns, both tops in the nation, against just eight interceptions. Fresno State finished 11-2 and won its second straight Mountain West Conference title. Carr is expected to be a first-round draft pick in the NFL Draft in April. Kessler, meanwhile, will return for his junior season at USC under new coach Steve Sarkisian. He threw for 2,968 yards, 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions as a sophomore.
McCall wins title, chooses Stanford
Before she left for her freshman season at national power Stanford, Erica McCall led Ridgeview's girls basketball team farther than any Bakersfield team had ever been. The Wolf Pack won its third section title in four years with McCall and coach Michael Martin, then won three state playoff games to reach the Southern California championship, where Ridgeview lost to Lynwood. McCall was named the Gatorade State Player of the Year after averaging 18.1 points, 15.0 rebounds and 9.1 blocks per game.
Coaching legends step down
Kern County bid adieu to four legendary coaches in 2013. Longtime baseball rivals Randy Roberts of Centennial and Dan Lemon of Stockdale retired from coaching within a week, Roberts after Centennial lost a 10-inning game to Clovis in the section quarterfinals and Lemon after one more run to the section championship, which Stockdale lost to Clovis North. Together, they won more than 800 games, five section titles and every Southwest Yosemite League title for 20 consecutive years, according to Central Section historian Bob Barnett.
Then, six months later, Roberts' wife, Brooke, stepped down as Centennial's volleyball coach. Brooke Roberts won a section-record 884 games, 14 section titles and two state championships during her time at North and Centennial.
Also in the spring, Garces basketball coach Gino Lacava, who guided the Rams to an incredible 10 Central Section titles in 20 seasons, handed the head-coaching reins to former assistant Matt Robles. Lacava now serves as Robles' assistant.
BC football sanctions
The Southern California Football Conference announced May 14 that it had declared all Bakersfield College football wins from the 2011 and 2012 seasons forfeit losses because of violations of California Community College Athletic Association rules dealing with special inducements and privileges for football players. The same day, the CCCAA stripped BC of its 2012 state football title.
BC officials acknowledge violations occurred but appealed because they felt the sanctions were too severe. The sanctions also included declaring BC football ineligible for the 2013 postseason and putting the football program on two years' probation, for the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
Three levels of appeals were filed and rejected, and BC on Sept. 13 filed legal action in Superior Court in Sacramento County against the CCCAA over the sanctions. The case is pending.
South coach dies suddenly
South High honored its late head coach, John Wren, with one of the best seasons in school history. Wren died suddenly on July 2, a few hours after a summer workout. The Rebels won their first seven games and won a share of the South Yosemite League title for the first time since 1995.
They also hosted a playoff game for the first time since '95, losing a 42-35 shootout to eventual Division III section champion Dinuba. Other significant passings in 2013 included former CSUB wrestling coach T.J. Kerr, former Bakersfield High coach and Kern High School District and Central Section administrator Don Harrison, former Shafter High and BC football player, high school coach and BC athletic director Jan Stuebbe and longtime softball coach Wayland Oakes.
Tragedy at Speedway
Bakersfield Speedway track official Steve O'Neil, who was working in the infield, died after being struck by a stock car at Bakersfield Speedway on Aug. 10. O'Neil, 54, was standing next to a tow truck and behind a protective concrete barrier between turns 2 and 3 in the infield, when a speeding stock car slammed into -- and climbed -- the rail and struck him.
O'Neil, an avid scuba diver and instructor, had worked as an official at the track since 2009.
It was the first death of an official at the track which has been in continuous operation since opening in 1946.
New race track blossoms
It took more than six years from the initial groundbreaking, a bankruptcy and a set of new investors but Kern County Raceway Park became a reality in 2013 when it opened for racing on May 18.
Around 8,000 fans showed up for the season-opener but there were clearly growing pains throughout the year as car counts were not as strong as owners had hoped. Two of the biggest shows were held late in the season -- a SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series race which drew more than 30 entries, and a NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race.
CSUB wins WAC baseball title
CSUB won the regular-season Western Athletic Conference baseball championship in its first season in the WAC.
That gave CSUB the No. 1 seed in the WAC Tournament to determine the league's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. But CSUB was beaten in the WAC Tournament.
In June, four players from CSUB's 2013 team were selected in Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft and signed professional contracts: shortstop Tyler Shryock (White Sox, 12th round), catcher Cael Brockmeyer (Cubs, 16th round) and pitchers Chuck Buchanan (Braves, 18th round) and Jeff McKenzie (White Sox, 28th round).
New Blaze ballpark fizzles
On Oct. 7, Blaze co-owners Gene Voiland and Chad Hathaway announced they had called off their plans to build a new ballpark for Bakersfield's Class-A professional baseball team, saying they had fallen "substantially short" of the goal required to build a stadium that would be successful.
They were able to raise only about $18 million of the $30 million needed. Voiland and Hathaway also announced that day they were returning the franchise to previous owner D.C. Elmore.
Big changes in Condorland
It was a turbulent year for the Bakersfield Condors ice hockey team, as for the second straight season the team failed to make the playoffs.
Coach Matt O'Dette was told a week before the season ended that he would not be coming back for the 2013-14 season.
John Olver was hired a the team's general manager. Olver then hired Troy Mann as the head coach.
Despite the changes, the Condors got off to the worst start in team history, going 0-8-1 before finally getting a win on Nov. 9.