Clovis News: Sports

Bullard moves on to D-I title game

It has been said often that Bullard High has pointed to this moment -- the Central Section Division I championship in football -- for three years.

Not true.

"Six years," senior linebacker Daniel Snelling said after the Knights advanced to the title game by mounting a 17-0 lead before striking the final blow in the fourth quarter to defeat Bakersfield 23-10 in a Division I semifinal played before about 4,000 fans Friday night at McLane Stadium.

Kerr Taubler and Jajuan Hammond connected for a 39-yard touchdown pass, John Jones had an interception, and Devan Mack rushed for a 60-yard score -- all in the first 9 minutes -- as second-seeded Bullard bolted to a 14-0 lead.

Ultimately, that would prove to be enough against No. 6 Bakersfield (9-3), though Knights defensive back Chris Kelly wouldn't have it, intercepting a pass, angling across field and dashing up the sideline for a 51-yard touchdown on the game's final play.

With that, a Bullard throng of a good 3,000 stood, howled and pointed to Friday's championship against No. 8 Centennial (9-4), which beat Liberty-Bakersfield 21-14.

Kelly, of course, could have caught the ball and took a knee. But that wouldn't represent the moxie of a 12-0 Bullard team driven to secure the first section football title in the school's 54-year history.

"We've been talking about going to the Valley championship ever since seventh grade, and here we're going to it," Snelling said after charging a Knights defense that held Drillers standout Alfonso Jackson to 26 yards rushing on eight carries.

Snelling and fellow linebackers Caleb Justice and Kyle Staples are among six three-year starters on teams that went 8-3 and 9-3 the past two seasons.

All along, they were pointing to 2009.

"We've got to get just one more," Justice said. "We'll feel some pressure to win it, but we want it so bad."

Bullard coach Donnie Arax, a 1982 graduate of the school and the architect of a program that has risen to the level of D-I perennial powers Bakersfield, Clovis West and Clovis East in the decade, isn't concerned with the pressure:

"This group of kids are the calmest I've ever seen. ... We knew it would be one of the better groups coming through Bullard."