Things didn’t start out very well for the Bakersfield Christian football team on Friday night.
The Eagles' troubles actually started earlier in the afternoon when the team’s bus took a much-longer, albeit safer, route to Santa Maria, leaving the Eagles a bit road weary by the time they arrived just an hour before kickoff against St. Joseph, a perennial power on the central coast.
“I’m not trying to make an excuse or anything, but I didn’t think it was going to take that long, and the kids were just kind of sitting there … I was like oh my gosh, this is the worst way to start a football game,” said BCHS coach Darren Carr, of the trip that took the team west on State Route 46 to U.S. Route 101 south instead of the shorter option through the winding, mountain pass on State Route 166. “You want to try to get there at least two hours before so you can relax and get warmed up. We were taping right before the JV game got over. So I’m like, ‘I’m stressing out.’ It was pretty crazy.”
Carr’s stress level reached dangerous levels shortly after the first whistle when the Knights’ Darien Langley took the opening kickoff 95 yards for a score and a quick 7-0 lead.
Fortunately, Carr discovered something else about his team, their resilience.
The Eagles regrouped, overcame an early 21-10 deficit, and eventually took control of a back-and-forth battle with a balanced effort en route — pun intended — to a 37-28 victory.
“It was actually good for us, just adversity wise,” said Carr, whose team had 251 rushing yards and 226 yard passing. “We kind of dominated those first two games, so it’s good for a coach, and players, to see what kind of toughness and grit that these guys have. We got punched in the face and it was good to watch (my players) come back and fight.”
The fight started with running back David Stevenson. The Eagles’ senior rushed for 207 yards on 20 carries, including an 81-yard touchdown run that gave BCHS a 30-21 lead with 11:31 left in the game.
“He went off,” said Carr of Stevenson. “He had a big run in the fourth quarter that kind of shut the game off a little bit for (St. Joseph). He played tremendously. He did a great job.”
Bakersfield Christian (3-0) also received impressive performances by quarterback Dominic Gamboni and two-way star Ben Yurosek.
Gamboni threw for 222 yards and three touchdowns — including two to tight end Yurosek — on 17 of 30 passing. He also ran for another score. His biggest throw came midway through the fourth quarter when he connected with Chris Gutierrez for a short TD to give his team some breathing room after the Knights had trimmed the Eagles’ lead to 30-28.
“Thank goodness for the offense.” Carr said “We were running the ball pretty well and a little play-action pass was working for us. We scored some points and the defense got some stops. In the second half, we finally figured it out and finished the game off.”
Yurosek finished with nine catches for 154 yards, helping cut the Knights’ lead to 21-17 with a 1-yard TD reception from Gamboni just before the half. He also had three sacks and a team-high five tackles to help limit St. Joseph to just seven second-half points.
“It was kind of funny because it was a crazy game, going back and forth,” Carr said. “A lot of emotion was drained from everybody. So when we brought everybody together after the game … we won, it was a great win, but everyone’s faces were just worn out, and tired. But it was good to watch them fight and finish.”
McFarland 47, Kern Valley 34
Julian Avila had 358 yards and three touchdowns on 16 of 21 passing, and also rushed for two scores as the Cougars (3-0) remained undefeated. All three touchdown passes went to Marcus Ramirez, who finished with eight catches for 103 yards. Multiple receivers had catches of over 20 yards, McFarland coach Casey Quinn said.
Kennedy 38, Liberty-Madera Ranchos 14
Ricardo Solorio rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, and also caught a 48-yard scoring pass from Jose Cota to lead the Thunderbirds (4-0) to a road victory. Francisco Medina scored on a 3-yard run, Jesus Nuno added a 1-yard TD, and Ronaldo Monroy kicked a 41-yard field goal and was 5 for 5 on PATs for Kennedy, which rushed for 236 yards. Avian Pesina returned an interception 21 yards for a score. The Thunderbirds have scored a defensive touchdown in all four games this season. Ricardo Aguirre recovered two fumbles, while Isaac Villalobos and Anthony Ontives forced a fumble. It was Ontives second forced fumble in two weeks.
Highland 48, Tehachapi 15
A.J. Cleveland threw for 248 yards and four touchdowns, including two to Chris Gutierrez to lead the Scots (3-1). Cleveland and Gutierrez connected on scoring plays of 52 and 50 yards. Gutierrez finished with four catches for 139 yards. Nick Salas tallied 106 total yards, including kickoff and punt returns. He had 54 yards receiving on six receptions. Joey Vidal had a team-high 77 yards and a touchdown on the ground, while Dizzy Brown added 74 yards on 11 carries for Highland. The Scots also had five sacks against the Warriors (0-4).
Foothill 33, West 14
Kaelan Deloney and Bryan “Pony” Diaz combined for 231 and two touchdowns to lead the Trojans (2-2) past the Vikings (1-2). Deloney had a team-high 130 yards and Diaz added 101 for Foothill, which had over 400 yards rushing. Tyson Reynolds and Jeffrey Cuevas also scores a TD on the ground, finishing with 78 and 77 yards, respectively. Ricky Torres had a 1-yard scoring run on his only carry of the game.
Stockdale 32, Independence 7
Jack Kaiser threw four touchdown passes, including two to Jayden Hollis, to lead the Mustangs (2-2) past the Falcons (0-4). Hollis' TD receptions went for 46 and 20 yards. Armando Trujillo caught a 27-yard TD pass and Larry Brown hooked up with Kaiser on a 12-yard TD. Jaykob Jones had a 20-yard rushing touchdown, as well. Defensively, Michael Gabaldon had an interception and two forced fumbles, and Nicholas Murrillo forced two of Independence's seven fumbles. Matthew Hiang had an interception and Miles Anthony recovered a fumble for Stockdale.