When the Kern County 7-on-7 passing league began on June 5, Cody Kekipi was on the job for three days as the new offensive coordinator at Bakersfield High.
In that instance, Kekipi, who took over the same role that he held the previous four years at Garces, just wanted to take the time to build a relationship with his new players.
“This is about the players and their experience,” Kekipi said. “They have welcomed me into their family and have eased the transition. It’s been nice.”
There will be a lot of firsts at BHS this season that make for great conversation and chatter, but is still seven weeks away from telling whether the change is for the best for the Drillers.
It started when Paul Golla stepped down as the head coach in February to take the same role at Garces.
BHS hired former Driller great Michael Stewart six weeks later as the next head coach, but did not hire an offensive coordinator until this month.
The two coaches will also usher in a new quarterback into the offense that will not look anything similar to what Golla ran over the previous 15 years.
Junior Ricky Easterwood, who was Cameron Williams’ backup last season, is the leading candidate to be the starting quarterback for BHS in the season opener at Calabasas on Aug. 23.
After a decade-and-a-half of running the triple-option veer offense under Golla, BHS will look more like the modern-day college football offenses with a more spread-out approach under Stewart and Kekipi.
“Fans can expect something that is a little bit different than what they’ve seen in years past,” Stewart said. “We are going to open things up and try to be a balanced attack and do what we can do to get the W. We are going to be in the air a little bit more.”
For Easterwood, the change seems to be for the better for the 6-foot-2 signal caller than leans more on his strong right arm that he does with his feet.
“It’s great because that’s where I am better at anyways,” Easterwood said. “I am not really a running quarterback. This suits me better and I feel it will fit this team better, as well.”
BHS was 9-4 overall last season and finished second in the Southwest Yosemite League to Liberty. The Drillers advanced to the Central Section Division I semifinals and despite losing two seniors to the PAC-12 in Williams (Washington) and Carl Jones (UCLA) and others like Adrian Moreno, Ceyontay Bell and Antown Thompson to four-year college football programs, there is hope the pieces coming back will form another successful season for the Drillers under the new coaching staff.
“I am really excited for this upcoming year,” Easterwood said. “We have the weapons. We had them last year. We ran a different offense and I feel like we could have used them better. This year we really will be able to show what our receivers can do on this team in a different kind of offense.”
Stewart and Kekipi know the summertime and passing league tournaments like the one ran at Kaiser Permanente Sports Complex every Wednesday at 6 p.m. this month are good times to ensure the team gels with the season opener less than two months away.
“We are still just working through certain kinks and getting guys up to speed,” Stewart said. “The goal for all of this is to get better each day and get guys acclimated to what we are doing and improve.”
Stewart’s mind has been at ease knowing Easterwood has been a leader on and off the field over the last three months.
“Not just talent-wise, that stuff is aside,” Stewart said. “You have a great young man (in Easterwood) in his competitiveness. He shows up early and leaves late. He wants to work hard. Sometimes I have to get him to go home. That’s exciting. Those are the intangibles you can’t put into individuals. He has work ethic and desire.”
Added Kekipi: “He’s a seasoned signal caller. It’s nice to have a ready football player that is eager to play. It’s nice. Ricky is getting pushed and is ready to lead the way with a senior-heavy set of skill players.”