Here are the players, personalities, teams and storylines that made the 2018 Kern County high school sports season one to remember:
High school baseball success
It was a great year on the diamond, starting with Stockdale baseball winning a Central Section Division I championship on June 2. The team was led by star ace pitcher Sean Mullen, and ran a gauntlet of Clovis teams to take home the title. Of course, Garces baseball took home a Central Section title on the same day. Unfortunately, head coach Guy Dees left the program following the season after leading the Rams to four section titles during his 12-year tenure at the school. And don’t overlook Arvin, a program that had a terrific overall season and playoff showing: A 24-6 record, 10-2 mark in South Sequoia League play, and the team’s first Central Section championship game appearance since 1994.
On top of that, five Bakersfield natives were selected in the 2018 Major League Baseball Draft on June 6. Three were picked directly out of high school — Sean Mullen (Stockdale), Jacen Roberson (Garces) and Easton McMurray (Liberty). The other two — Allan Winans (Frontier/Bakersfield College/Campbell University) and Art Joven (Highland/College of the Sequoias) — were drafted after pitching this past year collegiately. While Winans reported to New York Mets extended spring training following the draft, the other four aforementioned players bypassed signing professionally and instead remained committed to Division I college programs.
Ridgeview cross country wins state title
It was history in the making for the Wolf Pack, which took home the first state title in any sport in school history and became the first cross country program from the city of Bakersfield to take home state gold on Nov. 24 at Woodward Park in Fresno. The Wolf Pack had a deep team this year, repeating as Central Section champions as well. Alex Cuevas — just 15 months recovered from a major car accident — led the way for the Wolf Pack with a ninth place finish in the Division III state meet (15 minutes, 40 seconds). He was followed Ased Adus (18th, 16:00.20); Gerardo Moreno (20th, 16:01); Bryan Gaxiola (25th, 16:05); and Jonah Molina (32nd, 16:14). Better yet, the top-three finishers for the Wolf Pack — Cuevas, Adus and Moreno — all return next season to help lead to Wolf Pack again.
Alex Aguilar's must-see football season
The Shafter quarterback was a human highlight reel for the Generals. Aguilar set the Central Section single-season record for total touchdowns by a quarterback with 66 — 44 passing, 20 rushing, two on defense — as Shafter went a program-best 12-1. The only thing the senior seemingly didn’t do was throw a TD pass to himself. He certainly had an incredible season.
Sam Stewart carries Liberty
He’s a heckuva football player period, but when considering the senior running back was Liberty’s main mode of transportation down the field — the focal point of a run-heavy offense — and the Patriots reached the Division I Central Section championship game in the process spoke volumes to the senior’s season. The bruising power back finished the year with 1,972 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns for 12-2 Liberty. He was also a standout linebacker.
Trent Tracy wins state wrestling gold
Just two years removed from being a 126-pound freshman, the Frontier junior put on nearly 50 pounds and dominated the 170-pound weight class. Tracy lost in the quarterfinals of the Central Section Masters to Christian Rodriguez of Selma, yet rolled through the first day of the CIF State Championships with two wins via fall, a tech fall win and a major decision. Tracy defeated Mark Cardwell of Porterville-Monache in the semifinals, 7-0, and beat Gabe Martinez of Oakdale, 10-2, for the state title on March 3. It was the first state wrestling championship in Frontier history.
Central Section soccer championships
Late February saw championship success come to town via boys and girls soccer. And it was quite the accomplishment for local teams competing against their central valley rivals. On the girls side, Independence entered the Central Section tournament as the No. 1 seed and did not disappoint. The veteran squad led by first year head coach Jordan Shwora beat Lemoore and Reedley in the quarterfinals and semifinals, and then topped No. 2-seed Hanford, 2-0, for the championship. The Falcons finished the season with a 19-4-1 overall mark, a 10-0 record in the South Yosemite League, and ripped off a 19-game unbeaten streak. In boys soccer, Mira Monte took home its first Central Section title in school history after wrapping up an impressive 25-3-4 record under head coach Ben Warren. The Lions won the championship in memorable fashion, beating No. 1-seed — and defending section champ — Lindsay, 1-0, on the road. Mira Monte also advanced to the title round by knocking off Kern County rivals Shafter and Arvin in the quarterfinals and semifinals. That postseason performance could be a sign of things to come for an emerging Lions program. And in Division V, the Chavez boys made it back-to-back section championships under head coach Tony Mendez. The Titans were the No. 3 seed in the tournament bracket but ran the gauntlet, knocking off Caruthers 5-1, Rosamond 5-0, Garces 1-0 and Mendota 4-1 to claim the crown.
Garces tennis duo wins it all
The Garces tandem of Alexsia Drulias and Jackie Sala beat Fiona Yao and Jordan Pickett from Clovis North 6-4, 6-3 for the Central Section doubles title on Nov. 3. Drulias and Sala had an undefeated season, winning a South Area championship as well. Sala was only a sophomore this season and Drulias — who won a doubles championship with her sister, Anastasia, two years ago — was just a junior.
Liberty vs. Bakersfield High basketball battles
These two teams locked horns a handful of times last year in a quest to be the top program in the top local league in town. After splitting two tight games to start out the regular season, the Drillers and Patriots met on Feb. 14 for what essentially amounted to the Southwest Yosemite League championship game (both teams entered that evening with 8-1 league marks). After a tie score to close out the opening quarter, BHS went on a 13-4 run to open the second and never looked back in a 72-52 victory. Ronnie Stapp — the eventual BVarsity Player of the Year — led the way for the Drillers with 24 points.
Daniel Viveros wins state track and field championship
Liberty’s Daniel Viveros won the state shot put title on June 2 with a heave of 62 feet, 5 inches. It capped off an amazing season for Viveros, who won all 16 meets in the shot put that he competed in, including the prestigious Arcadia Invitational and West Coast Relays. He’s the first track and field athlete at Liberty to ever win a state title. Viveros — who is also a two-time All-Area lineman in football — will be going for a repeat championship this year as a senior, before heading to Ole Miss to throw collegiately.
Tyler Schilhabel hired at Independence
The former Falcons player was hired on May 24 and became the only high school football coach in the country to use a wheelchair. Schilhabel also came to the school with plenty of fanfare — a former star quarterback at Independence who eventually rose through the ranks to become an assistant coach at the University of Utah. At Independence this season, Schilhabel had the Falcons playing an exciting brand of football. The team finished with a 6-5 overall record, competed for a South Yosemite League title, and reached the Central Section playoffs.