Is it rare that no local Kern County football program will be playing for a Central Section championship next week?
Yes, no question.
Is it odd that the area high school football season is over?
If you want to put it that way, then yes, that would seem true, as well.
Is it a surprise that no local team won during Friday night’s section semifinals — or, in Rosamond’s case, Division VI title game?
No, that came with little to no shock at all.
First off, entering kickoff it was apparent this would be uphill battles for many if not every program taking the field. With the exception of Shafter, all were higher seeds, and didn’t have the luxury of playing on their home fields.
In general, the northern part of the Central Section had the upper hand on Kern County during the regular season. That can just be the cyclical nature of high school football on a year-to-year basis.
At the end of the evening, it added up to the fact that many of our local teams were underdogs this past weekend, and it played out that way on the field.
With that, we’d like to put the defeats into context. Here's a breakdown of every game, and what they ultimately mean to the respective programs’ seasons.
No. 1 Fresno-Central 35, No. 5 Bakersfield 27: Realistically, it would have taken a Herculean effort for BHS to win here. And, frankly, the Drillers were competitive throughout the Division I semifinal. We’ll say Bakersfield High had an up-and-down season, although one that ended relatively well. The team’s playoff win over Liberty was a shot in the arm, and the Drillers made it to the semifinals without standout running back Shane Jones, who missed the entire season with an ACL injury suffered during basketball season. Imagine what they would have been with him at full strength coming out of the backfield? Fresno-Central, for its part, is ultra-talented, and had an entire year to stew over its championship loss to Bakersfield High last season. The Drillers needed to play a perfect game at Central to even have a shot here, and the turnover bug seemed to bite them again. We knew they’d have their hands full, and sure enough they did.
No. 3 Firebaugh 35, No. 2 Shafter 23: For starters, this was a great season for the Generals, who went 9-3 and advanced to their first section semifinal since 2000. The frustrating part is that Shafter just didn’t play its best game in this Division V showdown. Firebaugh jumped out to a 21-0 lead six minutes into the game on three long — and fortuitous — touchdown passes. The Shafter offense never truly hit its stride and the team settled for field goals — and in some cases, penalties — in the red zone. Every team has an off game or two during a football season, and unfortunately for the Generals, theirs came in the playoffs. There’s no turning back from that, but it also doesn’t take away the standout year the program put together.
No. 2 Visalia-Central Valley Christian 57, No. 6 North High 16: The Stars had a remarkable season and caught lightning in a bottle to make a late run. They won six straight games down the stretch, and advanced all the way to the Division IV semifinals — their first section semifinal since 1983. But it also seemed the proverbial car got as far down the road as possible. The tank officially hit empty Friday at CVC. Sometimes the final score tells the story, and in this one North was clearly outmatched.
No. 2 Fresno-San Joaquin Memorial 49, No. 3 Bakersfield Christian 7: From the standpoint of the straight final score, this was eye-opening. Frankly, I’ve become used to BCHS being on the other end of these outcomes, not on the losing side of things. The team even lost its composure, it seemed, with a reported dustup between players on the sideline resulting in at least one parent jumping down from the stands to join the fray. Good times. Occasionally after a long regular season, the Eagles head north in the section tournament and meet their match on the field. They clearly did Friday in the Division III semifinals, and judging from the outcome it was a rude awakening.
No. 1 Tulare Western 38, No. 5 Tehachapi 7: Similar to North, Tehachapi got the car as far down the road before it hit empty. The Warriors had a great year — they started the season 1-5, rattled off six wins in seven games and advanced to their first section semifinal since 2011. This all came under first-year head coach Doug DeGeer. Pretty impressive. But Tulare Western wasn’t going to be denied in the Division III semifinals, moving to 11-1 on the season and into the title game. Tehachapi simply ran into a buzzsaw at the wrong time.
No. 1 Strathmore 42, No. 2 Rosamond 32: The Roadrunners competed, leading 24-21 in the second quarter. But Strathmore had too much firepower, taking a 27-24 lead in the third quarter and pulling away from there in the Division VI championship. Strathmore continued its undefeated season by moving to 13-0 with the win. Rosamond, which was playing for its first section title in program history, ends its year with an 11-2 record.