It wasn’t an ideal way to start a season. Far from it.
Uncomfortable heat, a late kickoff, an on-the-field injury that led to a long third-quarter delay and sloppy play made sure of that.
But Bakersfield Christian and Garces did their best to shake off whatever obstacles came their way in Friday night’s Mission Bowl.
And, in the end, the Eagles proved to be more resilient, pulling away in the fourth quarter for a 22-0 victory, their third straight in the season-opening series between the area’s two private schools, in a game that finished just before midnight.
“That was the thing, man, just turning the ball over, and making mistakes,” Bakersfield Christian head coach Darren Carr said. “I don’t know how many penalties we had, but it was nuts. Every time we’d get a big play, it would be called back. When you get big plays called back like that it stings.”
The Rams’ troubles actually started a few weeks ago when Joseph Campbell, entering his third year as the team’s starting quarterback, reportedly suffered a collapsed lung and is fighting a bout with Valley Fever. There is no timetable for his return, but it’s obvious Garces desperately needs him.
“It’s obviously tough,” Garces coach Paul Golla. “He's such a big part of our offense and what we try to do. But I thought our guys did a great job. We just have to find a way to figure this thing out. I think one of the guys said it best, that it’s going to be a process.”
Garces managed just two first downs and was outgained 333 to 13 in the game. The Rams completed just one pass, and it went for a negative two yards. Unfortunately, Bakersfield Christian’s Randy Raymond and Garces’ Isaiah Bell were injured on the play with 5:40 left in the third quarter. After a 30-minute delay, the two were taken in separate ambulances to local hospitals for observation.
When play resumed, the Eagles began to take control. Led by junior Jess Wattenbarger, BCHS moved the ball 97 yards on nine plays at the end of the third quarter heading into the fourth. He finished off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run. He had 86 yards on seven carries on the drive then barrelled his way in for a two-point conversion to give his team a 15-0 lead with 9:55 to play.
Wattenbarger capped the scoring on the Eagles’ next possession with a 3-yard run. He finished with 117 yards rushing on 17 carries.
Senior running back David Stevenson opened the scoring with a 18-yard TD run on BCHS’s opening drive of the second half. The drive was set up by an interception by Shawn Warren. Stevenson finished with 108 yards on 12 carries.
“We had holes and we hit some good gashes in the first half,” Carr said. "The second half didn’t change, we just held onto the football. We didn’t fumble and we didn’t have holding calls. It was a pretty clean second half for us. And when you do that, you’re going to win games.”
Despite a 136 to 19 advantage in total yards, and limiting Garces to just two first downs, BCHS entered halftime in a scoreless tie. For the game, the two teams combined for 10 turnovers, three interceptions and two fumbles apiece.
The Eagles moved the ball past midfield on their opening drive only to cough it up. They marched down the field on their next possession before failing on a fourth-and-10 from the Garces 12. Two second-quarter interceptions by quarterback Dominic Gamboni, including one on a second-and-goal from the 5-yard line, further led to the team’s frustrations. He finished 15 of 32 for 108 yards and three interceptions.
“I just told the kids at halftime, we have to slow down,” Carr said. “We have to do more technique things and put your hands where they’re supposed to be. Just finish the game really.
“We just try to go out and be the best version of ourselves every day. But it’s good to start with a win, but we started with a win the last two years and ended up with (Visalia-Central Valley Christian) whooping us.”
Bakersfield Christian 22, Garces 0
BC: Stevenson 18 run (Salinas kick)
BC: Wattenbarger 2 run (Wattenbarger run)
BC: Wattenbarger 3 run (Salinas kick)
RUSHING—Garces, Bowers 6-12, Smith 12-1, Bell 4-1, Martinez 2-1, Bradford 1-0. BCHS, Wattenbarger 17-117, Stevenson 12-108, Raymond 2-15, Gutierrez 1-(-2), D.Gamboni 2-(-20).
PASSING—Garces, Bell 0-3-1, 0, Smith 1-3-2, (-2). BCHS, D.Gamboni 15-32-3 108.
RECEIVING—Garces, Marshall 1-(-2). BCHS, Gutierrez 6-48, Stevenson 3-21, S imril 3-16, Yurosek 2-15, B.Gamboni 1-8.
W-L: BCHS 1-0, Garces 0-1.
JV: Garces 34, BCHS 8; FS: Garces 49, McFarland 6.