There was something familiar about watching the Bakersfield Christian football team celebrating on its home field Friday night.
For the second time in four years, the Eagles captured the Central Section Division III championship, cruising to a 28-14 victory over Visalia-Central Valley Christian.
“It means a lot, it really does,” BCHS coach Darren Carr said. “You’re basically like another family member with these guys, you know what I mean? They see you a lot and sometimes they see you more than their own mom and dad. I’m excited to watch these guys celebrate back there. It’s just a great feeling.”
A defensive struggle early on, Bakersfield Christian (10-3) took control of the game early in the second quarter on the strength of a pair of scoring runs by junior Jess Wattenbarger. His 27-yard touchdown gave the Eagles a 14-0 lead with 6:32 left in the first half
The Cavaliers (9-5) countered with their best drive of the night, moving the ball 63 yards on seven plays, capped by a 6-yard TD run by Logan Jacobi.
But in typical BCHS fashion, the Eagles wasted little time responding. On their next play from scrimmage, Dominic Gamboni connected with Ben Yurosek on a 68-yard touchdown pass along the sideline to build the lead back to 14 points.
“I’m on Cloud 9 right now,” Yurosek said. “Just riding the emotions, working eight, nine months for this moment, for this feeling, so it feels great.”
Yurosek, who finished with 97 yards receiving on five catches, added to his resume with another TD catch, this one from 11 yards out to build Bakersfield Christian’s lead to 28-7. Gamboni was 13 of 19 passing for 189 yards.
“I’m very proud,” Carr said. “Very, very proud. But we’re not done yet. We’ll see how long we can keep these guys around.”
BCHS will find out where it will play next on Sunday, when the brackets for the Southern California Regionals are announced.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” Carr said. “It’s put in over the offseason and carried into November. I’m super proud of our guys. We get to play extra football and that’s a lot of fun.”
“With this time it was a lot of ups and downs. We didn’t win our league. Ridgeview (beat us bad) and it really taught us a lesson. It taught these guys how to be hungry again. I think we learned from that game and this was that product.”
Central Valley Christian did make things interesting late, scoring a touchdown with under two minutes to play and then recovering an onside kick. But Chris Gutierrez intercepted a pass inside the 5-yard line and the Eagles were able to run out the clock.
“We hit a couple of speed bumps trying to finish the game out,” Carr said. “Those guys played really tough. They have some of the most unbelievable offensive linemen that I’ve seen in a while. They pound the football; ball control and they did a great job trying to not let us win.”
BCHS’s defense stepped up its play in the second half, limiting the Cavaliers to under 100 yards in offense in the second half.
"Defensively, we’ve done a really good job in the last month really, just working on details and being in the right spots,” Carr said. “Our (defensive backs) played phenomenal. It was a little rough patch when we first started (this season), blown coverages and things, but I don’t think we’ve had one in three weeks. So kudos to those guys for figuring it out.”