If history is an accurate indicator of future results, Bakersfield Christian should be the favorite to win the South Yosemite League championship this year.
Since Darren Carr took over as BCHS’ head coach in 2015, the Eagles are 23-0 in league games.
Last year, after 12 seasons of playing in the South Sequoia League, BCHS moved into the SYL. It was a seamless transition for the Eagles, who dethroned the trio of teams (Independence, Ridgeview and Tehachapi) that split the SYL championship in both 2016 and 2017.
Despite losing several key contributors to graduation, including starting quarterback Jacob Maran, leading rusher Donte Harris (1,082 yards and 14 TDs), and leading receivers Keonte Glinton (729 yards & 5 TDs), Myran Randle (617 yards & 10 TDs) and Alex Wallace (607 yards & 5 TDs), Carr isn’t concerned.
“We lost a lot of good seniors,” Carr said. “A lot of good kids went off to play college ball. We really relied on those guys. But we had some guys kind of waiting in the wings that are going to step up and play some good football...It’s a good group.”
The best of the current group is tight end end/defensive end Ben Yurosek, the 2018 BVarsity All-Area Defensive Player of the Year.
Yurosek, who recently verbally committed to play for Stanford next year, had 27 catches for 329 yards and three touchdowns in 2018. In addition to that, the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder accrued 82 tackles and 15.5 sacks while anchoring a BCHS defense that allowed just 11.8 points per league game last season.
BCHS also returns strong-armed quarterback Dominic Gamboni. Last year, serving as Maran’s backup, Gamboni completed 46 of 111 pass attempts for 886 yards. He added six touchdowns and eight interceptions.
The senior duo is a big reason Carr believes the Eagles are once again in prime position to win another league championship and keep their league winning streak alive.
Last year BCHS outscored their five SYL opponents by a combined score of 203-59.
Carr is aware that the Eagles' instant success in the SYL last year makes them the team that everyone is else targeting.
That thought doesn’t really concern him, however.
“I think we’re the team to beat all the time,” Carr said. “If you're at a high school and you’re coaching kids, and you’re coaching men, that’s your goal. That’s the kind of mindset you got to have. It’s not a cocky thing but you’re definitely not tip-toeing out there thinking you’re going to lose a game.”
Though several teams in the SYL should be good this year, arguably the biggest threat to ending the Eagles' league winning streak is perennial local powerhouse Ridgeview.
The Wolf Pack, D-II section champions in 2012 and D-III section champions in 2014 and 2015, have posted a 93-30 record over the past decade.
However, those accomplishments were under the guidance of Dennis Manning, who has relinquished the job of head coach and will now serve as an assistant to former West and Frontier head coach Rich Cornford.
Cornford posted a 103-76 record in 17 seasons at West and Frontier. He led the Vikings to a section championship in 2005.
While not quite as loaded as that West squad, which featured two players, Ryan Mathews and AJ Jefferson, that went on to play in the NFL, plus Princeton McCarty — who amassed more than 2,000 yards rushing during a four-year college career at the University of Idaho — Cornford really likes his current roster of players.
“I think we have a pretty darn good team,” Cornford said. “I think we can compete with anybody in the valley. We have size and speed. We could use a little more depth at certain spots, but from an athletic standpoint we’re pretty darn good.”
The Wolf Pack will get tested early with a rugged non-league schedule before squaring off against BCHS on Oct. 18th in a game that could determine who wins the SYL title.
“We need to get that league title back,” Cornford said. “At Ridgeview there’s a lot of banners hanging up with a lot of league championships, especially from the past 10 years. But last year we didn’t put one up there. Bakersfield Christian is a good program. They’re well-coached and they have good athletes. Most people in our league would agree that us and Bakersfield Christian are probably the top two teams but there’s other quality teams in there.”
For Carr, winning the SYL championships would be the first step in what he hopes will be another highly successful season.
“Our main goal is winning a state championship, a Valley championship, and a league championship,” Carr said. “But we have to take one practice at a time.”
Carr’s pursuit of lofty goals intermingled with a one-day-at-a-time approach has obviously worked extremely well for BCHS.
“I think what we’ve done the last four years at this school really shows the dedication our coaches, our players, and our administration have for us. We're going to do things the right way. We’re going to do them the Godly way. And we’re going to work extremely hard.”