BAKERSFIELD – No controversy in this one.
There were some questions in how Bakersfield High advanced to the Central Section Division I championship, but none whatsoever once they got here Friday night. The top-seeded Drillers took Bullard behind an 88-year-old shed called Griffith Stadium and spanked the Knights 38-3.
Creative with a 423-yard option offense steered by Chris Hannible and overwhelming with a smallish but remarkably quick unorthodox defense that aligns no one in a three-point stance, Bakersfield closed a 13-0 season in clinical fashion before a standing-room-only crowd of 6,000.
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The Drillers' 22nd straight win at home occurred a week after they defeated Clovis 31-14 here in a game tainted by several questionable calls or noncalls by a Kern County Officials Association crew.
This time, a neutral crew from the section's Central Area never came into question.
Neither did the game.
"We expected a fight. We expected more," said Driller sophomore wide receiver Kevin Hayes, who caught six passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns.
Bakersfield bolted to a 24-3 halftime lead and coasted while increasing its state-record section title total to 35. And don't put away the calculator.
The Drillers started seven sophomores and a freshman – middle linebacker Marcus Bruce, who was brilliant in place of Shaq Garrett. The team's best defensive player was out with a broken arm.
Then there was junior cornerback Jermaine Ervin, who delivered the play of the game.
It occurred in the second quarter with Bullard down 14-3 and needing about a foot on a fourth down at the Bakersfield 10-yard line.
With their career-leading rusher, Demetrius Warren, in the backfield, the Knights instead gave the ball to fullback Alfredo Lopez, who was stuffed by Ervin for no gain.
Two plays later, Hayes executed a double move on yet another sophomore, Dejonte Oneal, caught a well-placed pass from Hannible and sped away for an 86-yard touchdown.
Bakersfield's Parker Campbell, a key factor in a night of favorable Drillers field position that included drilling five kickoffs into the end zone, then booted the conversion, making it 21-3 with 5:01 remaining in the first half and the rout was on.
"The [fourth-down stop] was big, but I'm not sure [a first down] would have been enough," said coach Donnie Arax of third-seeded Bullard (10-3). "I don't want to diminish their victory. They are very good, but we weren't quite ourselves. It seems like we ran out of a little juice."
He said that also applied to Warren, who closed a three-year, 4,468-yard career with 109 yards on 23 carries. But clearly, the 5-7, 165-pounder lacked his normal breakaway speed.
"We rode him this entire year," Arax said. "And there comes a point when your body can only withstand so much."