It’s Bakersfield High. Again.
And what does that mean?
Central is still in want of what the mighty Drillers of Kern County have now won a state-record 37 times.
Bakersfield has broken many a heart, the latest wearing black and orange Friday night at Central’s Koligian Stadium, where the Drillers rallied from a 7-0 halftime deficit to defeat the top-seeded Grizzlies 21-14.
Central (11-2), which had won 11 in a row, was seeking its first section football title in the 86-year history of the program. The Grizzlies are 0-for-four in finals.
Bakersfield senior quarterback Josh Maran, who missed more than half the season with a broken collarbone, operated the option offense to perfection in the second half as the 11-2 Drillers won their ninth straight.
“It wasn’t about me, and it really didn’t matter,” he said. “I just wanted to come out with a win.”
Yet it very much was about him after Bakersfield coach Paul Golla split the quarterback duties in the first half with Maran and sophomore Cameron Williams.
Maran led the Drillers on scoring drives of 65 and 89 yards before needing only to go 18 for the game-winner late in the fourth quarter.
His 3-yard touchdown pass to Navonte Demison after a play-action fake broke a 14-14 tie with 3 minutes and 16 seconds remaining.
That came five plays after Bakersfield sophomore free safety Tahj Wright intercepted Trent Tompkins for the second time.
Those throws were the worst of an otherwise sensational season for the sophomore, who had been intercepted only five times in 325 attempts coming in.
He had also passed for 2,977 yards and 35 TDs while completing 62 percent of his attempts.
But the big stage appeared to swallow him on a night he completed 15 of 29 attempts, including only six of his final 18.
“He tried to do a little too much at times,” Grizzlies first-year coach Kyle Biggs said. “He’s a sophomore, man, and he’s been making big plays all year, so I can’t fault him. He’s bailed us out of a lot of bad situations.
“We made a lot of mistakes, and we haven’t done that stuff in a long time.”
That included a roughing-the-center penalty after Bakersfield’s Carson Olivas had made a 22-yard field goal with 7:13 remaining in the third quarter.
The Drillers wiped the points off the board, accepted the penalty and scored the next play on Shane Jones’ 2-yard option run to tie it, 7-7.
Central outgained the Drillers 230-125 in the first half, but led by a touchdown because of three turnovers – two fumbles off blown snaps and a Tompkins interception in the end zone.
The Grizzlies, with that lead, had reached the Bakersfield 19 following a 56-yard run by Jevon Bigelow, a junior who finished with 171 yards on only 11 carries, including an 80-yard TD for a 14-14 tie early in the fourth.
After Bigelow’s run to the 19, Tompkins rolled slightly left and launched a desperate floater that Wright gladly accepted in the end zone.
Senior linebacker Adrian Lopez rescued Central, however, when he made a spinning interception of a Williams pass in the end zone with 5 seconds remaining in the first half.
A Tompkins-to-Malik White show broke a scoreless tie early in the second quarter.
The Grizzlies went 97 yards in six plays, scoring on an 8-yard pass from Tompkins to White with 10:31 left in the first half.
The pair had connected on completions of 30, 17 and 12 yards to set it up. Sophomore Austin Bebout had a 20-yard run in the drive.