Just when you thought that Del Oro football was steeped in great tradition, and it is, here come the Bakersfield Drillers.
Winners of a state record 37 Central Section championships, and looming as the winningest high school program in the state with 774 victories, Bakersfield High School will bring its considerable act to Loomis on Saturday night for the Division I-A Northern California Regional Championship Bowl.
Del Oro (12-2) won its 12th Sac-Joaquin Section title Friday night, topping Inderkum 35-13, and a win this week will send the Golden Eagles to their fourth CIF State Bowl game this decade under coach Casey Taylor, whose ambitious scheduling mantra has been, “Anyone, anywhere, any time.”
“We’re just happy to still be playing, to have this opportunity,” Taylor said. “We’ll be ready.”
The Drillers (11-2) are located in Southern California, but in an effort to fairly balance the playoff brackets, the CIF the past two seasons sent three Central Section teams (Bakersfield and Fresno teams) to the SoCal field and three to the NorCal brackets.
Last season, Del Oro traveled Liberty High in Bakersfield for a NorCal Regional and won 28-24, then topped Camarillo 16-13 in the state final.
Del Oro and Bakersfield have met before. Bakersfield, with a roster dotted with college recruits, beat Del Oro 56-26 in the CIF Division I Bowl in 2013 in Carson. That was the first state title for the Drillers since 1927, though the CIF did not have any sort of state playoff format from 1928-2005.
The CIF expanded the NorCal and Southern California Regional games last season to allow virtually all section champions a chance to continue seasons. From 2006 through 2014, the section’s 10 commissioners had the daunting task of deciding who should move on and who’s season was over based on strength of schedule more than overall victories, including quite a few section champions who sported perfect records.
Now the challenge is creating regional championship meetings that make the most sense and are the most competitive. It worked wonderfully last season, when many regional games were close contests.
“It is based on competitive equity more than enrollment,” said Ron Nocetti of the CIF office. “We wanted to create the best possible matchups. The words ‘competitive equity’ are exactly the right word to use. Last year, we had smaller schools playing bigger schools and they’re thinking, ‘Wow, we’re playing them?’ and then they won. It worked last year. We think it’ll work this season.”
One of those saying “wow” last season was East Nicolaus, enrollment 257. The Spartans played Coronado, enrollment 1,200, for the CIF State Division 6-A title and prevailed 16-6.
East Nicolaus (13-0) will play McClymonds (11-1) of Oakland on Saturday at Chabot College in Hayward in the Division 5-A game. In Division 3-A, Sutter (13-0) of the Northern Section plays at Sac-Joaquin Section D-III champion Oakdale (12-2) on Saturday.
In Division 5-AA, Capital Christian (11-2) plays at Bishop O’Dowd (13-1) in Oakland on Friday. In Division 6-AA, Amador (13-1) plays Mendota (13-0) on Friday at Calaveras High.
The upper-division CIF State title games will be held at Sacramento State on Dec. 16-17 for the second consecutive season. The showcase game will be the CIF State Open Division championship pitting national powers De La Salle of Concord (11-1) and St. John Bosco of Bellflower (12-2). Those teams do not play regional championship games as the CIF and its 10 section commissioners overwhelmingly agree that they want the best of the best to face off in the state final.
CIF Northern California Regional Football Championship Bowl Games for Divisions 1-AA through 6-A. All games start Friday or Saturday at 7:30 p.m. (The CIF State Open Division Championship is De La Salle-Concord vs. St. John Bosco-Bellflower, Dec. 17 at Sacramento State):
Division 1-AA: Freedom (11-1) at St. Mary’s (13-1), Friday
Division I-A: Bakersfield (11-2) at Del Oro (12-2), Saturday
Division 2-AA: Cardinal Newman (12-1) at Valley Christian (12-1), Friday
Division 2-A: Serra (9-4) at Sanger (13-0), Saturday
Division 3-AA: Manteca (12-1) at Menlo-Atherton (11-2), Friday
Division 3-A: Sutter (13-0) at Oakdale (12-2), Saturday
Division 4-AA: Campolindo (10-3) vs. Palma (10-3), Friday
Division 4-A: Milpitas (10-3) vs. Pleasant Valley (9-3), Saturday
Division 5-AA: Capital Christian (11-2) at Bishop O’Dowd (13-1), Friday
Division 5-A: East Nicolaus (13-0) vs McClymonds (11-1), Saturday
Division 6-AA: Mendota (13-0) vs. Amador (13-1), Friday
Division 6-A: Brooksidde Christian (9-4) at St. Patrick (11-3), Saturday