The narrative for the Bakersfield High football team is if the Drillers don’t turn over the ball, they are one of the top teams around.
But when BHS puts the ball on the ground, all of that if off the table.
Thankfully for the Driller faithful in the final game of the season at home at Griffith Field, the fourth-seeded Drillers put together one of the cleanest offensive performances of the season in a 51-25 win over No. 12 Fresno-Bullard on Friday night in the Central Section Division I quarterfinals.
Three times Bullard turned the ball over the first half and BHS capitalized on the first two, playing a role head coach Paul Golla knew was in this team from the get-go.
“If that momentum carries into next week, for sure,” Golla said. “Any time you turn the ball over three times against our offense, offensively, I thought this was as good as we looked.”
Bakersfield (9-3) will play at No. 1 Fresno-Central (11-0) for the second consecutive season in the D-I semifinals next Friday at 7 p.m.
After putting up 55 points over Clovis East last week following a 7-0 loss to Liberty in the regular season finale, Bakersfield again was offensively firing on all cylinders. And the defense kept Bullard off the board for most of the game until two late fourth-quarter touchdowns kept this one from a running clock.
Bullard’s Shalom Welch fumbled the ball twice before halftime, the first came on the opening drive of the game.
Bakersfield needed just six plays to find the end zone on a 27-yard touchdown pass from Cameron Williams to Carl Jones.
The two PAC-12-bound senior standouts punctuated this game all night long.
Jones also intercepted a Bryce Weiner pass and returned it 56 yards which led to a 14-yard scoring run by Isaiah Jernagin.
Later in the second quarter, after Bullard scored its lone touchdown of the first half on a 16-yard run by Welch, Jones returned the ensuing kickoff 60 yards. Williams scored on a 2-yard quarterback keeper four plays later.
Williams also connected on an 11-yard touchdown pass to Elijah Lee to give the Drillers a 30-6 halftime lead.
That score came on a drive where the ball hit the ground for the first time. A pitch from Williams to Jones bounced off the field into Jones’ hands. Golla called a timeout and the Drillers marched down the field in just six plays.
“I thought our O-line did a great job. I thought Cam did a great job,” Golla said. “All around, it could have been our best performance against a really good Bullard team.”
Jones scored again in the fourth quarter on a 48-yard run for his third score of the game.
“It feels good,” Jones said about playing in the D-I semifinals after missing the playoffs during his two varsity seasons at Golden Valley. “I could only have dreamt of something like this. I am happy I did this with a Driller jersey on with my teammates. Tonight, we proved something.”
Bullard’s standout running back Marcus Fulcher led the offensive charge for the Knights (5-7) with 151 rushing yards on 31 carries, but the senior was held scoreless until two late second half scores with the game out of hand.
Wesley Wilson set the tone on the ground for the Drillers with 149 yards and one touchdown. The junior might have eclipsed the 200-yard barrier, but a long run in the third quarter was called back by offsetting unsportsmanlike penalties.
“This is a huge win for us,” Wilson said. “We’ve been fighting so hard with 5:50 a.m. workouts. It’s not easy. But we are here and ready for the challenge.”
Bullard has former Bakersfield High great Phillip Thomas on the coaching staff. Thomas said this was his first time back in the stadium he led BHS to the D-I section title in 2005 in “about five years.”
Seeing the renovated stadium made Thomas excited about the future, but said he missed the old water tower.
“That tower was so special,” Thomas said before kickoff.
No. 4 Bakersfield 51, No. 12 Fresno- Bullard 25
Bakersfield 10 20 7 14 - 51
Bullard 0 6 7 12 - 25
Bak - Jones 27 pass from Williams (R. Bonner kick)<
Bak - R. Bonner 37 field goal
Bak - Isaiah Jernagin 14 run (run fail)
Bull - Welch 16 run (run fail)
Bak - Williams 2 run (R. Bonner kick)
Bak - Lee 11 pass from Williams (R. Bonner kick)
Bul - Fulcher 23 run (Simmons kick)
Bak - Wilson 2 run (R. Bonner kick)
Bak - Jones 21 run (R. Bonner kick)
Bull - Fulcher 16 run (run fail)
Bak - Jones 48 run (R. Bonner kick)
Bull - O’Neal 2 run (run fail)
RUSHING - Bak: Wilson 16-149, Williams 10-70, C. Bell 5-36, Isaiah Jernagin 3-20, Jones 4-59. Bull: Fulcher 31-151, Welch 3- 19, Levato 1-4, O’Neal 5-40, Simons 1-5.
PASSING - Bak: Williams 4-10-0-82. Bull: Weiner 15-28-1-157.
RECEIVING - Bak: Jones 1-27, Wilson 1-13, C. Bell 1-30, Lee 1-12. Bull: Jenkins 6-84, Greeley 1-19, O’Neal 2-20, Sunamoto 5-25, Anderson 1-3, Fulcher 1-6.
W-L: Bakersfield 9-3; Bullard 5-7