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RON STAPP: Playoff football returns to Kern County for the first time in nearly two years

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Carter Lynch, left, and Ben Yurosek celebrate after Bakersfield Christian captured the CIF State 3-A championship on Dec. 14, 2019. It was the last postseason game for an area team, a stretch of nearly two years.

Well, we finally made it. In a season that has made “health and safety protocols” and “canceled” nearly as common as “kick-off” and “touchdown,” the wait is finally over.

For the first time in 692 days, Kern County football teams will take the field for a postseason game when the Central Section playoffs open Friday night. East hosts Orange Cove in the lone Thursday night game, but there will be 20 teams in action on Friday.l

The last time an area team took the field for a playoff game, it ended in a wild celebration. Bakersfield Christian had just capped a 42-21 victory at Rohnert Park-Rancho Cotate to capture the CIF State Division 3-A championship on Dec. 14, 2019.

I was originally supposed to attend the game, but was in the hospital with a dangerous blood clot in my lungs and had to sit that one out.

Plenty has changed since then. The COVID-19 pandemic was still not front-page news in the United States, and its full effects wouldn’t be felt for a few more months, changing the sports landscape along the way with a series of cancellations and postponements.

Fast forward to Friday, and No. 7 BCHS will be in action again, and will have an opportunity to start its postseason with a defense of its section D-III title, earned with a 28-14 victory over Visalia-Central Valley Christian in 2019.

Despite a somewhat controversial seeding and divisional placement system, reliant solely on computer rankings, the Eagles (7-3) are pretty much where they were two years ago. Same record and same division, albeit as a lower seed — they were the No. 2 seed in 2019 — which figures to make a repeat run a little more difficult since they will likely have to play most of their games on the road.

Bakersfield Christian opens play at home on Friday at 7 p.m., against a Stockdale team that has lost five straight games after opening the year 4-0. BCHS has won five straight en route to its second South Yosemite League title in three years. It’s also the school’s seventh league title in eight years, having won the South Sequoia League five consecutive years before moving to the SYL in 2018.

The No. 10 Mustangs struggled a bit in the powerful Southwest Yosemite League, but are plenty capable of competing in the Division III bracket. The team’s losses came against two D-I teams and three D-II teams with a combined record of 27-14.

The BCHS-Stockdale matchup is one of three games on Friday featuring a pair of area teams. In Division II, No. 14 Wasco (9-0) plays at Centennial (6-3), and No. 5 Foothill hosts No. 12 West (6-3) in Division IV. The Tigers won the SSL title, while the Trojans are Southeast Yosemite League champions, their first league crown since 1981.

No. 4 Liberty and No. 7 Garces won’t play until next week, when the 8-team Division I bracket opens play. The other five divisions all feature 16 teams.

So for the other 21 teams that will be in action this week, here’s hoping that you all have a successful run through the playoffs. Although ending the way it did in 2019 may be too high of an expectation, you never know. That 2019 Bakersfield Christian squad finished second in its league that year and was just 3-2 following an 18-0 Week 6 loss at Tulare Union.

I guess, like they say, that’s why they play the games.

Numbers game

The number of area playoff teams that:

1 — Are undefeated: Wasco (9-0), the South Sequoia League champion

2 — Have head coaches that have won CIF State championships: Garces’ Paul Golla (at Bakersfield High in 2013), Bakersfield Christian’s Darren Carr (2019)

3 — Have a 1,000-yard rusher: Kennedy (Avian Pesina, 1,472), Foothill (Kaelan Deloney, 1,192), Independence (Evan Peaker, 1,029), according to posted stats on MaxPreps.

4 — Are league champions: Bakersfield Christian (SYL), Foothill (SEYL), Liberty (SWYL) and Wasco (SSL).

6 — Have first-year head coaches at their school: Bakersfield (Rashaan Shehee, interim), Delano (Frank Gonzales Jr.), East (Bibi Carrasco), Ridgeview (Casey Quinn), Taft (Brian Durkan), Tehachapi (Kris Krempien).

9 — Have a losing record: Stockdale (4-5), Tehachapi (4-5), Independence (4-6), Bakersfield (3-5), North (3-5), Chavez (3-6), Delano (3-6), East (3-7), Ridgeview (1-7).

Coronavirus Cases widget

  • Positive Cases Among Kern Residents: 157,525

  • Deaths: 1,791

  • Recovered and Presumed Recovered Residents: 149,382

  • Percentage of all cases that are unvaccinated: 92.09

  • Percentage of all hospitalizations that are unvaccinated: 92.87