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Overtime, last-second thrillers make for an exciting return to football in Kern County

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The South High Rebels take on Independence in a Friday night football game. It was among the first Kern High School District football games since 2019.

After going more than 15 months without high school football, Kern County seemingly tried to to make up for all that lost time in one night.

While there were a few blowouts in the mix, a string of thrilling finishes, comebacks, near comebacks and one-possessions games more than made up for it, as numerous contests remained in doubt until the final snap.

Though a postseason will not be played until next fall, if the first week of action is any indication, the Kern High School District will bring just as much intensity to games in March and April as it normally would in November.

Below is a list of everything that went down in week one.

BAKERSFIELD 37, CENTENNIAL 30 (OT)

Having seemingly lost all momentum at the end of regulation, the Drillers got back on track to survive a spirited Golden Hawk comeback attempt.

Pedro Trujillo scored a go-ahead touchdown from a yard out, and the BHS defense recovered from a rough fourth-quarter to close the game out in overtime.

Such a tight finish seemed unlikely with eight minutes to play, as the Drillers had raced out to a 30-13 lead. Quarterback Adyen Moreno led the way, completing 8-of-10 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns, including an 80-yard strike to Tybo Rogers.

But the Golden Hawks put together a furious rally behind quarterback Levi Manning, who threw for 220 yards, rushed for 67 more and accounted for four touchdowns, three of them coming on the ground.

Centennial completed the regulation rally on the final play, forcing overtime on a 31-yard Nick Helton field goal as time expired.

But after regrouping, the Drillers got the ball first and elected to pound the rock with great success in overtime, capping their opening drive off with a third-and-goal touchdown run by Trujillo off left tackle.

Forcing a fourth-and-four, the defense put the game away, getting pressure on Manning, who threw into tight coverage and had his pass broken up by Bryson Jones.

It was a thrilling way to end a satisfying return to the field for second-year BHS coach Michael Stewart, who opened the modified season with a much-needed win.

“1-0 is always better than 0-1," Stewart said. "So it absolutely feels great, especially knowing the hurdles all the players and all the coaches have had to deal with, it’s just good to (be) out playing real football against a real opponent.”

EAST 24, WEST 21

While the Driller-Golden Hawk thriller may have been the headliner, an even wilder finish occurred at West, as the Blades pulled out a miracle in the closing seconds.

Down 21-17 and facing a fourth-and-18 with under 30 seconds to play, East quarterback Johnie Salazar found sophomore receiver Paul Campas for a 30-yard touchdown pass, pulling off the shocker and snapping a three-game skid against the Vikings.

Knowing the Vikings would be in a heavy prevent defense, Blade coach Kasey Tittlemier attempted to get creative with his play call and felt his team ran what was called to perfection.

"We knew they were going to be in a deep-prevent-type defense so we didn't want to just run all (vertical routes) which is primarily what's expected in that situation," he said. "So we ran a post-wheel concept to try and draw some more attention from the defense on our post route and we were able to hit the wheel route behind it to score.

"It was well-executed."

West quarterback Daylon Leach accounted for 176 yards of offense and all three of his team's touchdowns, each of them coming on the ground.

INDEPENDENCE 20, SOUTH 17

Evan Peaker capped a 100-plus yard rushing performance with a go-ahead fourth quarter touchdown to clinch a comeback win for the Falcons.

Peaker scored two rushing touchdowns in the second half and the Independence defense pitched a shutout over the final two quarters to rebound after falling behind 17-7 at halftime.

MIRA MONTE 41, KERN VALLEY 32

The tandem of Abraham Casillas and Sebastian Marbaugh proved too much for the Kern Valley defense and the Lions came away with their first season-opening win since 2015.

Casillas got the fireworks going in a hurry, returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown, before adding two scores on the ground. Marbaugh, the team's quarterback, had two touchdown passes and a rushing touchdown in the win.

Kaden Preston did it all in a loss for Kern Valley, throwing for a touchdown, running for two and even catching touchdown pass. Kieran McCarthy also accounted for 103 receiving yards and a touchdown for the Broncs.

GOLDEN VALLEY 6, FOOTHILL 0

Marquel Bruley connected with Santos Castillo for a 15-yard touchdown pass with 3:57 to play in the fourth quarter for the game's only score, and the Bulldog defense was able to complete the shutout.

The win was just the second for Golden Valley since Nov. 3, 2018, and also marked its first shutout since Nov. 7, 2014.

SHAFTER 52, ARVIN 3

It was a thorough domination from the Generals from the start, who got four touchdown passes from quarterback Tyson Dozier, three of which went to receiver Cameron Huerta.

Huerta finished with 181 yards on six catches and also went a perfect 6-of-6 on extra points. The defense got into the scoring as well, with Anthony Hoxie returning an interception for a touchdown.

Saturday

ST. FRANCIS 48, GARCES MEMORIAL 42

Things got even wilder Saturday, as the Rams went up by 14, surrendered 36 unanswered points and nearly came back from a 20-point deficit with under three minutes to play.

The Knights took the lead in the third quarter before the wheels fell off, as Garces gave up a punt return touchdown, a pick-six and a safety, all within the first 2:45 of the fourth quarter.

But after a 10-yard Travis Plugged touchdown run, the Rams turned an onside kick recovery into an Ian Jernigan touchdown run, then recovered another onside kick with 42 seconds to play.

But the rally ended there, as an Alejandro Ramirez interception finally put the game to bed for the Knights.

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