CARSON — The city of Bakersfield hasnt experienced a football event of this magnitude since Frank Gifford graduated from Bakersfield High in 1948.
If it were only Bakersfield Christian invading the StubHub Center for todays Division 4 CIF State Championship Bowl Game against Central Catholic, that would be enough to rouse the citys football fans. But after the 4 p.m. small schools game, Bakersfield High will be battling Del Oro for the Division 1 title in an 8 p.m. kickoff.
Not that this is old hat for Central Catholic, which will be making its third bowl appearance, but it is safe to say that Raiders fans know their way to Carson by now.
On the other hand, these two Bakersfield schools will be the first programs in Kern County history to play for state bowl championships, and even for the West Coasts country music capital this is a pretty big deal.
The town is very excited, said Bakersfield Christian coach Jerald Pierucci. Bakersfield High is bringing eight fan buses and were bringing two. Theyll be there in time for our game and our guys will stay for theirs.
We are one of the bigger towns in Central California, but when it comes to something like this we still react like a small town.
Theres nothing Podunk about the Bakersfield Christians fast-paced spread offense. Junior quarterback Brandon Jones has thrown for 3,980 yards and 52 touchdowns to threaten the school marks of current Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr, while junior running back Matt Smith has balanced the attack with 1,667 yards and 21 scores, leading the Eagles to a 12-2 record after an 0-2 start.
Matt is the yin to Brandons yang, Pierucci said. Hes a big, physical back at 6-3, 220. He wont blow you down the field but the tackles become more difficult as the quarters go on because of the pace of our offense and his load. Good tackles become arm tackles because of his size.
Their unique style helped the Eagles roll through the South Sequoia League and the Central Section Division 4 playoffs. On the other hand, Bakersfield Christian will be the fourth spread offense the Raiders will have faced since Nov. 8
Central Catholic gave up 272 passing yards to Pattersons Damien Paulo, 326 yards to Michael Wilson of Colfax and 262 yards in last weeks NorCal bowl to McClymonds Emoni Fountain. On the other hand, the Raiders accumulated seven interceptions in those games, winning all three.
Theyre a good football team with a big running back and theyve thrown for 4,000 yards, said Central Catholic coach Roger Canepa. You never are quite sure about the quality of team theyve played against.
We know we have a good team that has played some good teams in St. Marys and Placer and Ripon and Hilmar and Patterson and McClymonds twice. Weve run the gauntlet and you hope in the end that helps you and doesnt hurt you.
The relative levels of play always seems to be a question entering these Division 4 state bowls. Last year, Santa Fe Christian represented the south after sweeping through the playoffs on the strength of its wing-T offense.
Such an attack is rare among small schools in San Diego County, but they were the sixth wing-T team Central Catholic faced. The Raiders led 59-7 at halftime en route to a 66-7 victory the biggest blowout in the eight-year history of the state bowls.
Pierucci said he hasnt spent much time looking at last seasons Raiders, but he does like the quality hes seen from this years Central team.
Theyre steady-Eddie with big-play capability, but they want to keep the ball as much as possible, he said. They manage to keep their quarterback in manageable situations, and if you sell out the run theyll go over the top on you. Their running backs run hard, so we have to do a good job of gap control and put them in unmanagible downs, which is tough to do.