It’s going to be a festive night at Bakersfield Christian because, well, the city of Bakersfield loves high school football.
Though the numbers are skewed a bit, having a state championship football game in Bakersfield for the first time in 92 years should bring out the masses.
Tonight’s CIF State Division 4AA championship between Moraga-Campolindo at Bakersfield Christian will be just the third state championship held in the city.
“It’s nice to have a home game,” BCHS head coach Darren Carr said. “You don’t normally have that in a state championship atmosphere. We don’t take it for granted, man.”
Bakersfield High, back when it was still Kern County Union High School, hosted the last local state championship game on Dec. 20, 1924, losing to Berkeley High 9-0 at Griffith Field.
The first was in 1922, when the Drillers beat Berkeley 18-12 at the old Kern County Fairgrounds, where the Kern County Museum now stands.
The state abolished the state championships system in 1927 until 2006, when a committee led by former Sac-Joaquin Section commission Pete Saco introduced the state bowl system.
However, until last season, all state championship games were played at StubHub Center in Carson (like in 2013 when BHS won the D-I title and BCHS lost the D-IV championship).
Now, with 13 state championships being played this weekend but only the top five divisions at Sacramento State, schools like BCHS have the chance to take home state gold in front of a home crowd.
“It means everything,” BCHS senior lineman Taeber Nylander said. “(The coaches) talked about leaving our legacy ... it’s a big thing. It should make everybody come out just because it has been so long. It would boost the team’s confidence a little bit and get us going a little more.”
BCHS administration says almost 3,000 tickets have already been sold, with attendance expected to climb past the 5,000 mark — that would be standing room only in a stadium that seats 4,500.
“It’s been hectic, but in a community like this, it’s well worth it,” BCHS athletic director Blake Van Der Schaaf said of the school’s week-long preparation for the game.
Van Der Schaaf said that Raiders fans, who have become fans of the Carr family because of Oakland QB (and BCHS graduate) Derek Carr, have come into the school office this week to purchase tickets. Van Der Schaaf joked Friday afternoon that the south end zone seating would be the “Black Hole.”
The end zones were painted in checkered black and white patterns, extra portable toilets were brought in and extra seating was erected for about 500 fans behind each end zone.
And oh, then there’s the football game.
“I’ve gotten a lot of people saying, ‘Hey good luck, we’re going to the game,’” BCHS senior Jeremiah Foster said. “We love the support, but at the end of the day, we’ve got to go out and play our game.”
Campolindo uses an offense as similar what BCHS runs as any team the Eagles have seen this season.
BCHS junior quarterback Braden Wingle has thrown for 4,237 yards and is just 124 yards from passing BCHS grad Brandon Jones for the Central Section single-season record, according to section historian Bob Barnett.
Campolindo (11-3) has its own sturdy, accurate quarterback in Jacob Westphal. The senior has thrown for 3,522 yards and 26 touchdowns to just four interceptions.
“He’s been the one constant for us,” Campolindo coach Kevin Macy said. “We’ve had a year of ups and downs.”
Injuries have taken a toll on Campolindo on defense and at the running back position, which Macy said has “put more responsibility on Jacob, and you have to say he is the one constant in his leadership and game management.”
And as much as the BCHS community is excited about hosting the state championship, Macy is on the opposite end of that thought process.
The Cougars have played in four state championships since 2011, including in each of the last three year. They beat Lakeside-El Capitan for the D-III title in the final season at StubHub Center in 2014.
“We got used to that,” Macy said of the old system where all state championships were played in Carson. “When you go to another high school, it take a little of the luster away from it.”
Campolindo had to travel 774 miles roundtrip to play La Mirada in a 27-3 loss in the D-3A finals last season.
But in a city that enjoys high school football as much as Bakersfield does, Van Der Schaaf and the BCHS community hope tonight will bring a state-championship atmosphere.
“We are doing all that we can to make this a huge event,” Van Der Schaaf said.