Coaching changes in the middle of the season are never easy, but the remaining football staff at Bakersfield High is committed to making the transition as smooth as possible.
Putting those words into action is the focus of the Drillers’ interim head football coach Rashaan Shehee, who was thrust into that role when third-year BHS coach Michael Stewart and his alma mater parted ways Friday, just three games into the 2021 season.
“It’s pretty much about moving forward and making the focus and emphasis on the kids and their season,” said Shehee, a former Foothill High and Washington standout running back, who played two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. “I don’t want them looking back on this season years later and all they remember are coaching changes and things of that nature.”
To help implement those lofty goals, Shehee plans to enlist the help of several former Bakersfield High players.
“My first thought was to reach out to some of the guys that bleed (Driller) blue,” said Shehee, who was serving as the team’s offensive coordinator prior to the coaching change. He’s also the head varsity girls basketball coach at BHS. “And they were all on board, so there might be a few faces that you might be familiar with that will be on our sideline helping us out.”
Ex-Drillers such as Josh Sherley, the 2001 BVarsity All-Area defensive player of the year, who also won the 160-pound state wrestling title, former Kansas State lineman Daniel Calvin and Steve Wofford, who finished his Bakersfield High career with a school-record 7,100 rushing yards, have all agreed to assist in one capacity or another.
“(With everything that’s happened), I want to bring that feeling (of pride) back, and who better to do that than guys who have been in this locker room before, and played at a high level,” Shehee said.
Shehee also recognizes that as the girls basketball coach, where he has led the Drillers to three section titles in the last four years, there will be an overlap in the two seasons, and he will need plenty of help.
“It’s going to be difficult, but I just have to devote time to both,” said Shehee, who was the BHS running backs coach from 2001-2003, but hadn’t coached football since joining Stewart’s staff this season. “I had to check with my family first, and my wife she was really pushing for it more than anything because she said the boys need some stability right now. She said, 'so just go do it.'”
Playing a preseason schedule that included three opponents ranked in the state’s top 25, the Drillers were 0-3 heading into last week’s scheduled matchup with 0-3 Ridgeview. But a positive COVID-19 test forced the cancellation of the game, and the coaching change was announced a few days later, along with a prepared statement from BHS Principal Dr. Ben Sherley.
“Bakersfield High School is parting ways with Head Football Coach, Michael Stewart, and has named Rashaan Shehee the Interim Head Coach for the remainder of the 2021 football season,” Sherley said. “We thank Coach Stewart for his service and dedication to our student athletes and to the Bakersfield High School football program. Coach Shehee brings with him an extensive history of successful teaching and coaching experience, as well as competing at the highest levels of football.”
The statement continued with a show of support for Shehee going forward.
“As for Coach Shehee’s role, we are very excited that he is at the helm and we have a very high level of confidence in him,” Sherley said. “Coach Shehee’s tenure as a classroom teacher and head basketball coach over many years only strengthens his overall resume and ability to lead our student athletes. Because of our confidence in him, we are excited for the future of Bakersfield High School football, both short term and long term.”
The team was scheduled to have a bye this week before hosting the state’s ninth-ranked team, Chatsworth-Sierra Canyon, on Sept. 24, but there has been some talk about rescheduling the game against Ridgeview during that week instead.
While those details are still developing, Shehee has had limited contact with his players and coaches as part of the health and safety protocols. He has spoken to the team on Zoom “a couple of times” and to others during zero-period workouts, and was meeting with his coaching staff Wednesday evening in preparation for the team’s return to practice on Monday afternoon.
“My whole focus is picking up the excitement for these kids,” Shehee said. “I just want this season to go well for them, and that’s it. I want them to finish the season playing together and doing something special together.”