The high school football portion of a long weekend is at an end, so let's take a look back at what we learned this week, in and out of Bakersfield.
• I billed the Central-Liberty matchup as a contrast of the Grizzlies' athletic, run-and-gun style and the Patriots' grinding, defense-first game management. In that department, Liberty won, because the game was a defensive struggle from the word go — even the touchdown Central scored early in the game was the result of a methodical 14-play drive. But the result went the Grizzlies' way anyway, a 10-9 victory that came because of a couple of Liberty mistakes (most notably a missed extra point at the end of the third quarter). One point or not, this will have major seeding repercussions in the Division I playoffs. Liberty hasn't been home past the first round in four of the past five seasons, and unless the Pats can win the SWYL (or perhaps if Central wins the TRAC), that won't change this November. The good news is that Liberty proved itself plenty capable of playing with — and, in the second half, out-playing — one of the section's other top teams. with the narrow loss.
• Things were a little dicey at halftime, but thanks in part to a Joey Porter pep talk, Bakersfield High controlled the second half against a game Glendale-Cactus team from Arizona and won 44-32 at the Hercules Classic in Encino. With Kyle Pope out with injury, Asauni Rufus, Marcus Bruce and Derrick Vickers all broke 100 yards rushing. The Drillers relied heavily on the big play: Three of their six touchdowns covered more than 65 yards, and five of six were from at least 14 yards out, including Rufus' 14-yard keeper that sealed victory in the final five minutes. The defense left something to be desired — and perhaps has explosive Garces licking its chops for next weeks — though it ought to be mentioned that BHS' leading tackler, Kenny Trueba, missed the second half with injury. The bottom line is this: The Drillers are 2/5 of the way through a tough-as-bad jerky non-league schedule (though Clovis-Buchanan, whom BHS plays in Week 4, looked better than advertised in whipping Bullard). Three more steps, including next week's big local battle vs. Garces, and the Drillers can move on to league play with state bowl hopes intact.
• Two other SWYL teams left town for big challenges; and though neither Stockdale, which lost 31-26 at Stockton-St. Mary's, nor Frontier, a 21-14 victim at Lompoc, came back with a win, both proved they can be competitive with the state's better teams (like, ahem, Bakersfield). In both games, the hosts had double-digit leads and the Titans and Mustangs could have rolled over. Instead, both made the final five minutes dicey for the home crowd. Both also proved something we already suspected: Their running backs are hard for anybody to bring down. D.J. Martin had 135 yards and two TDs on 23 carries for the Mustangs, and Triton Douglas went for 156 yards and a score on 28 carries. Nobody will have any fun playing these teams.
• As for the other half of next week's biggie at Griffith Field, Garces wasn't remotely slowed down by the loss of 10 players to suspension. The Rams rolled Golden Valley 77-34 anyway, piling on 42 second-half points after leading just 35-26 at halftime. With running back Dominic Frasch among those out, Sheldon Croney ran for 170 yards and four TDs on just 15 carries, and Cruise Adams threw for 216 yards and four scores. He's got seven for the season already in the Rams' new spread attack. The concern, of course, is defense: Alex Soto threw for 246 yards (though he threw four interceptions) and ran for 105 more as the Bulldogs stood toe-to-toe with the Rams for about two and a half quarters. Many of those out for Garces were defenders, so take this performance with a grain of salt. But it seems a shootout with Bakersfield might loom next week. What fun that will be.
• A week after its first regular-season loss in two years, Ridgeview had some nervous moments against Independence, but the Wolf Pack answered the bell in a 28-14 win. Kamari Moya-Cotton had 188 yards rushing and 67 more passing to make up for some more penalty- and turnover-caused headaches from Ridgeview. The Wolf Pack also held the ball for an astounding 19:20 of the second half. The Falcons defense wasn't giving up the big plays it was late last year, but it also couldn't get off the field. Ridgeview has Foothill next week before things get really tough again, with games against Newhall-Hart and at Liberty. The Falcons, meanwhile, have an opportunity to go on a good run before SWYL play: They should be favored in their next four games.
• Centennial got back up after losing 35-0 to Mission Viejo in Week 0. The Golden Hawks struck early against Visalia-Redwood, scoring four first-quarter touchdowns behind Reagan Enger and cruising to a 44-21 victory from there. Enger, a senior quarterback, threw for a touchdown, ran for two and returned an interception for a fourth score in that remarkable first quarter. He finished with 124 yards passing and 89 rushing. This was important victory for the young Hawks, because the rest of the schedule isn't kind. That starts with a daunting trip to Clovis next week.
• With both on the road, two SYL teams made emphatic statements against SEYL teams: South blew out Highland 50-7, and Mira Monte pulverized North 39-0. Rebels quarterback Eddy Perez threw for 214 yards and three touchdowns on just eight attempts (he also ran for two scores), and South's defense allowed just 153 yards to the Scots, who have struggled on offense two weeks in a row. The Lions defense was even better at North, allowing the Stars just 78 total yards. North was to unveil a new passing offense this year, but it still needs work: Austin Howard was 1-of-7 for 1 yard. With Ridgeview strong again, Golden Valley looking like its normal offensive juggernaut and West competitive again, the SYL looks like a deep, wide-open league.
• Speaking of the Vikings, they scored two more defensive touchdowns after beating East with a late one last week. But this time, Porterville roared back and beat West, 36-28 on the strength of 20 unanswered points to end the game. The Vikings again were hit or miss offensively, and they still have work to do. After a 1-8 season a year ago, though, the first two weeks have been a step in the right direction.
• If you think that sounded like a good game, you should have been in Ridgecrest. Burroughs scored early and led Tehachapi 7-0 for almost the entire night, but the Warriors finally broke through on Christian Terle's 2-yard score with five minutes left. Gutsy coach Steve Denman went for two, and Jorge Garcia scored to make it 8-7. Minutes later, David Carter returned an interception for a touchdown to stretch the lead to 15-7, but Burroughs tied it up with a stroke of luck. The Burros threw a deep-ball interception, but Tehachapi fumbled the return, setting Burroughs up with great field position. They struck with an E.J. Watts TD pass and tied it up with about a minute left on Tyrone Jones' two-point run. That left just enough time for one more big play. With 48 ticks left, Skylar Valencia won it 22-15 for Tehachapi with a 52-yard sweep. Incredible: After seven combined points in the first 43 minutes, we had 30 in the final five.
• The SSL had a big night, with Wasco shutting out Corcoran 49-0, Arvin scoring late twice to beat Foothill 20-19 (despite 218 rushing yards from Trojans senior Brandon Fanning), and Shafter and Bakersfield Christian each posting easy wins. Taft, Kennedy and Chavez (to Delano) all lost, but the league race is shaping up to be exceptional. And there's an outside shot that both Shafter and Wasco could get to 9-0 and set up the biggest meeting in the 90-year history of the storied rivalry. That would be an absolute blast. The Tigers certainly are more likely to run the table to that point, but Shafter has been a revelation in Year 2 under Ricky Ishida. The Generals have out-scored their two opponents 88-19, and their Week 2 matchup with Selma is worth keeping a close eye on.
Now a look at next week's five big games:
Garces at Bakersfield: I had this one circled in February when I heard about it. Lots of intensity, probably lots of scoring. State bowl hopes on the line for both teams.
Centennial at Clovis: The Cougars aren't Mission Viejo, but they're pretty darn good. Centennial wants revenge for a heartbreaking loss to Clovis last year.
Moorpark at Frontier: Another whale of a Southern Section test for the Titans, this time at home
Liberty at Tehachapi: What a fun matchup this one is. Liberty probably stronger, but many a team has thought that, then returned down the mountain with tail between legs
Arvin at South: It had been five years since Arvin beat two Bakersfield schools. Now the Bears go for three against a South team that looks like it's for real.
Finally, if you missed it, here's our BVarsity Live show from Friday night. Catch it every Friday at 11 p.m., and feel free to call in at 395-7306 to join the fun.