There’s still three games left in league play, but a handful of Kern County football teams are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel as far as championship aspirations go.
In the Southwest Yosemite League that’s especially true where preseason favorite Liberty has posted impressive victories over two of the Central Section’s top 10 teams the past two weeks.
With the Patriots’ 51-21 victory over Centennial on Friday, coupled with a 26-7 win over Garces in Week 7, Liberty (5-2, 2-0) holds a two-game lead over the Golden Hawks (4-2, 0-2) and Stockdale (4-2, 0-2), who opened league play undefeated.
Although things could change each week, Bakersfield High — which was discounted by some after three lopsided losses, a coaching change and a bout with COVID-19 in the first month of the season — is suddenly looking to be the Patriots’ biggest challenger as league play winds down the next few weeks.
The Drillers (2-3, 2-0), fresh off a 34-6 victory over Stockdale, have played inspired football the last two weeks under interim coach Rashaan Shehee. The road to a title doesn’t figure to be easy, especially with a game at Garces (3-3, 0-1) next week, but at the very least — win or lose against the Rams — BHS will have a chance to play for at least a share of the SWYL title in Week 11 at Liberty.
That scenario was aided by the news that Frontier will likely miss the next three weeks while dealing with health and safety protocols that caused the cancelation of their home league game against Garces.
Because a positive COVID-19 test was discovered around noon on Friday, the Titans (4-1, 1-0) will need two weeks of quarantine followed by four days of practice, meaning the team will miss scheduled games at Liberty next week and at home against Bakersfield in Week 10, according to Frontier coach Chris Bandy.
Stockdale and Centennial still have a glimmer of hope, but both would have to win out and hope for a lot of help. The loser of next week’s Golden Hawk-Mustang game would be eliminated from title contention.
That leaves the Rams as the only other team with a realistic chance at winning the SWYL championship this season, although they would need help, as well. Garces would need to beat BHS, then finish the season with wins at Centennial and Frontier and then hope Liberty loses to either Stockdale in Week 10 or the Drillers in the regular-season finale. Both are scheduled to be played at Liberty.
It’s a lot to digest, and it’s probably not something area coaches will spend much time talking about. But suffice to say, this past week’s results will have a major impact on who and how the league championship is won — or lost.
The Southeast Yosemite League title has started to come into focus, with Foothill (6-0, 2-0) and Highland (6-1, 1-0) setting themselves apart as the league’s only remaining undefeated teams.
The two schools are scheduled to play Friday at Highland, with the winner taking another step closer to a championship. The Scots are looking for their second straight title, and third in the last four seasons. The Trojans haven’t accomplished that feat since 1981.
Bakersfield Christian (4-3, 2-0) looks to be the favorite to win the South Yosemite League after handing West (5-1, 1-1) its first loss of the season. The Eagles are looking for their sixth league crown in seven seasons under coach Darren Carr.
Ridgeview (1-4, 1-0) is the only other undefeated team left following its first victory of the season, 15-14 over Golden Valley. If the Wolf Pack can build off that momentum and beat the Vikings next week, it sets up an important home game against BCHS in Week 10.
The South Sequoia League is essentially a three-team race for the title, with Wasco (6-0, 3-0) and Shafter (5-2, 4-0) sitting atop the standings with three weeks to play. Kennedy (5-2, 1-1) and Taft (3-2, 1-1) could play a role in deciding the eventual champion, but the Wildcats missed a SSL game against RFK in Week 5 due to health and safety protocols, and would have to win their final three games — including one against Wasco — and hope Shafter slips up.
The most likely scenario — and the one with the most drama — is that the Generals and Tigers meet in the regular-season finale with the SSL championship on the line. The game is scheduled to be played at Centennial.
The biggest obstacle toward that happening is Kennedy. The Thunderbirds host Shafter in two weeks, and could share the SSL title — the first at the school for fourth-year Kennedy coach Mario Millan — if they can win out and Shafter can beat Wasco in Week 11.
News and notes
Heading into Week 8 undefeated: Wasco (6-0), Foothill (6-0) and Kern Valley (3-0) are the only three Kern County teams that are still undefeated.
First victories: Independence (1-6) and Ridgeview (1-4) posted their first wins of the season on Friday.
Still winless: California City (0-4), Rosamond (0-4), Desert (0-3), Burroughs (0-7) and Frazier Mountain (0-5) are still looking for their first victories of the season.
Here’s a roundup of some of the games from Week 8.
Bakersfield 34, Stockdale 8
Tybo Rogers rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns, and also intercepted a pass, to lead the Drillers to their second straight victory in Southwest Yosemite League play. BHS quarterback Ty Monteiro was 7 of 9 passing for 163 yards and three touchdowns, including two to Daylon Leach. Leach finished with 87 yards receiving on four catches. Alex Rocha had three catches for 61 yards and a score, and Chris Qualls made a 37-yard reception. Rocha also had two of his team’s nine sacks. Jayden Dock had a team-high nine tackles, recovered a fumble and had two sacks, along with Anthony Rivera and Michael Williams.
Independence 21, Tehachapi 6
Senior Evan Peaker rushed for 129 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Falcons (1-6, 1-1) to their first victory of the season, evening their South Yosemite League record. Senior quarterback LaDon Denmark was 7 for 9 passing for 60 yards, including a scoring toss to Antony Rico. Denmark also ran for 50 yards on 11 carries, with Rico tallying 48 yards on the ground, as well. Defensively, Bryan Flores had a team-high tackles and shared a sack with Jorge Pineda. The Warriors (2-4, 0-1) were led by Samuel Orellana, who rushed for 105 yards and his team’s only touchdown on 14 carries. Wyatt Richie had a big night on defense for Tehachapi with 17 tackles, including four for a loss.
Wasco 41, Chavez 8
Jacob Ruiz threw three touchdown passes and ran for another score to help the Tigers remain undefeated with a South Sequoia League victory. Wasco threw for 238 yards and rushed for 165, all in the first half. The Tigers’ defense limited the Titans (1-5, 1-2) to just 20 yards from scrimmage until late in the fourth quarter while playing with a running clock.
Shafter 47, Arvin 7
Devon Sundgren ran for 189 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Generals past the Bears (1-6, 0-3) in SSL play. Shafter finished with 413 of its 450 total yards on the ground. Koa Rhodes had 127 yards rushing and two touchdowns, and Elijha Lucero scored three TDs and finished with 97 yards on 10 carries. Sundgren was just 1 for 3 passing, with his loan completion going 37 yards to Jessus Figueroa.
Taft 42, McFarland 0
Jackson Berry ran for two touchdowns and threw for another to lead the Wildcats to their first South Sequoia League victory of the season. Berry opened the game’s scoring with a 1-yard run, and followed that up with a 27-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Berry then completed a two-point conversion to Richard Jennings to give his team a 14-0 lead. Jennings and Berry connected again in the third quarter on a 66-yard scoring pass to build the lead to 28-0. Andrew Sherrell added to Taft’s advantage with a 57-yard TD run, and Cyris Gaylord and Julian Woodards each had short short scoring runs. All three of the Wildcats’ wins have been by shutout. The Cougars dropped to 1-5, 0-3 on the year.
Tulare Union 47, Delano 7
The Tigers (3-3, 0-2) suffered their third straight loss and second consecutive in East Yosemite League play. Delano was limited to two first downs and finished with 108 yards from scrimmage against The Tribe (3-3, 2-0).
“We need to get better at our assignment discipline and execution,” first-year head coach Frank Gonzales Jr. said. “My job is to make things simpler so we can play fast. (There’s) lots of areas for improvement.”
Kern Valley 43, California City 0
Hunter Watts threw two touchdown passes and ran for two more scores to lead the Broncs (3-0, 2-0) in High Desert League play in a game called at halftime due to multiple injuries to Ravens’ players, according to Kern Valley coach Ben Goffinet. Watts finished with 81 yards rushing on three carries and was 4 of 5 passing for 52 yards. Brian Hernandez (63 yards), Chris Mendoza (48 yards) and Chris Lopez (37 yards and a TD) all made contributions to the Broncs’ rushing attack. Defensively, Derrick Hinkey had four tackles and a forced fumble, Dominick Mental had a sack and Braxton Farnum intercepted a pass for Kern Valley, which held Cal City to a negative-two yards from scrimmage.
“Our offense scored touchdowns on all of our possessions tonight,” Goffinet said. “They played with a real fire tonight.”
Bakersfield Christian 49, West 19
Foothill 8, North 6
Phelan-Serrano 45, Burroughs 6
Liberty 51, Centennial 21
Garces at Frontier, canceled
Ridgeview 15, Golden Valley 14
South 26, East 16
Highland 28, Bishop Union 20
Saturday’s games (8-man)
Lone Pine 68, Maricopa 6
Orcutt Academy at Frazier Mountain, late