It’s not rocket science.
Championship caliber high school football teams are typically made up predominately of seniors that are as much leaders as they are talented players.
What has been a trend at Bakersfield High since Paul Golla took over as head coach in 2005 is the Drillers trot out teams consisting of seniors that learned how to win when, as sophomores, they played under a group of seniors that was chock full of leadership.
In terms of greatest teams under Golla, the 2013 senior class is second-to-none. The Drillers won the CIF State Division I title that season with the likes of Asauni Rufus, Derrick Vickers, Jeremiah Reddick, Kevin Hayes, Dillon Littles and Josh Nunez.
Go back a few years earlier to 2011, when the Drillers demolished Fresno-Bullard for the D-I title, 38-3. Seniors like Chris Hannible, Silas Nacita, Kevin Elijah and Andrew Agtang led the way for those sophomores that would eventually win a state title two years later as seniors.
Then, in 2016, guys like Josh Maran, Navonte Demison, Ryan Crowley, Carson Olivas, Jacob Vasquez and Steven Marks led the way for the Drillers' 38th Central Section championship.
And, entering the 2018 season, the senior class that season could have very well rubbed off on this year's group of upper classmen.
We'll find out next week when the 2018 campaign officially gets underway, but history cetainly has a way of repeating itself.
“Those seniors are an extension of our coaching staff,” Golla said. “Intrinsic leadership wins championships. Extrinsic, we might win some games, but it’s not going to be a championship. And I think those guys understand that. They get it.”
Those seniors that were sophomore standouts during the championship season two years ago — players such as Cameron Williams, Isaiah Jernagin and Adrian Moreno — have all said they relish the opportunity to lead the way they were once led.
The tradition that was established was taught to them, and passing it on has been key during the offseason leading up to Thursday night’s season opener against Anaheim-Servite at the Santa Ana Bowl at 7 p.m.
“My sophomore year we looked to up to a lot of the seniors,” Moreno said. “They had amazing leadership. That’s what us seniors are trying to demonstrate to the younger guys. We have to demonstrate leadership and sacrifice for what it takes to be a brotherhood. That’s what it takes to be successful as a team.”
This group of seniors — along with standout underclassmen like Isaac Jernagin, Wesley Wilson, Cameron Bonner, Elijah Lee and Xavier Marshall — have the ability to contend for section title No. 39 in the program's illustrious history.
“We’ve got a lot of dudes that can make a future for themselves,” Isaiah Jernagin said. “They can make a legacy for themselves. I am really excited about that.”
But it takes more than talent to win titles.
Williams said he took in a lot from Josh Maran, who was the starting quarterback and threw the game-winning touchdown to Navonte Demison to beat Fresno-Central in the 2016 championship game.
“You have to ask a lot of questions,” Williams said. “I asked Josh a lot of questions … Josh was a great leader. Navonte was a great leader. Seeing them on the field tell people to do stuff and see them be leaders on the field, that made me realize I should be doing that.”
Williams has readily admitted he's a shy person by nature. Quiet and composed, the senior — who recently made a public verbal commitment to the University of Washington — has made sure that he leads both by example and vocally entering his senior year.
“I am a really quiet guy, but as I got older, I’ve gotten better,” Williams said. “I learned from them. I feel I am doing a lot better.”
Williams isn’t the only one taking stock of the leadership handed down.
“We’ve been working on it,” Jernagin said. “We have a senior leadership group that’s been talking to the younger guys and making sure they are on the right track. Just like the seniors back then did for us. It’s been good. We are still working on it. I think we are leading them down the right path.”
Golla has taken notice as well.
“I love what they are doing,” Golla said. “I love their attitudes. We’ve ran hard and not one complaint. Those guys get it. We have to prepare ourselves for game one. Last year, I felt that the first two-to-three weeks I did a poor job of preparing our kids because of the cramps and the fatigue and everything else. I believe that right now at this point we are better than we were last year.”
A student of the game, Golla spent a lot of time in the offseason traveling around the country speaking with fellow high school, college and professional coaches. He thinks the experience made him better.
“I love the psychology aspect of the sport,” Golla said. “I love talking to other coaches around the country. Basically, I think I am a nerd when it comes to that. Not just X's and O's. The books we read are not about the X's and O's. It’s the culture code. It’s the thing about creating young men and how do you get someone to a championship level in life. I love that stuff. I put it on powerpoint.”
It also comes down to keeping the process simple and concise, even if the larger goal may seem daunting to those outside of the locker room.
“More than anything, we do what we do,” Golla said. “Our goal is to do every common and ordinary thing better than anyone else.”