State Champs! Huge Second Half Sparks Comeback for Division III-A State Title


Knight Jarecki, Sports Editor


By Knight Jarecki


The Bakersfield Christian Eagles defeated the Rancho Cotate Cougars by a final score of 42-21 in the Division III-A State Championship Game on Saturday night. The win marked the Eagles’ first State Title in school history.


The Bakersfield Christian Eagles football team is familiar with winning. With four straight Valley Championship games, a state final appearance, and only one league loss in the past four years, the only thing left to capture for BCHS Head Coach Darren Carr was that coveted State Title. Carr, who is his fifth year as the Eagles program leader, won a state title in 2013 when he was an assistant coach for Bakersfield High School but has now accomplished the same feat as a head coach.


BCHS soared through the Central Valley Playoffs by outscoring their opponents by a combined 112-35. They capped it off with a 28-14 win over Milk Bowl rival Central Valley Christian. The Eagles then hosted Sunny Hills (Fullerton) in the Southern Section Bowl Game and defeated the Lancers by a score of 42-21 and advanced to the State Championship game for the first time since 2016.


The Eagles opponent for the state championship game, Rancho Cotate, came into the state finals red hot. The winners of eight straight games, they dominated their opponents defensively and shut out their previous two opponents with scores of 7-0 and 10-0. The Cougars defeated Sierra High School (Manteca) and advanced to the state title game.


BCHS made the long 316-mile trip Friday after school to get ready for the biggest game in school history. Before the start of the game, light rain showers brushed through the area that created a problem for BCHS players with visors and their ability to see.


Rancho Cotate won the opening coin toss and deferred their decision to the second half that resulted in the Eagles to receive the opening kick-off. The Eagles offense stalled immediately as Dominic Gamboni threw an interception to begin the game. After the interception, there was a stoppage in play as the scoreboard malfunctioned. The scoreboard malfunction lasted for the rest of the night as fans, coaches, and players were unable to see the time and score in the game. The first quarter of play ended scoreless as both teams defenses dominated the opposing offenses.


After getting a short field opportunity, the Rancho Cotate team was able to capitalize on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Jared Stocker to Jack Reese, giving the Cougars a 7-0 lead early in the 2nd quarter. Later in the quarter, after a fantastic scramble and pass play for 34-yards by Jared Stocker, Rancho players punched it into the end zone on a quarterback keeper that put the Cougars up 14-0 late in the second quarter. The Eagles were then able to answer on a 9- yard touchdown pass from Dominic Gamboni to Ben Yurosek to split the lead in half at 14-7 to end the first half of the football game.


After a dominated defensive affair in the first half of football, the 3rd quarter was anything but defensive as the Eagles scored four touchdowns to Rancho Cotate’s none. The Eagles were able to score on a Yurosek 13-yard reception, a Wattenbarger 49-yard run, a Stevenson 12- yard run, and a 61-yard touchdown pass from Gamboni to Yurosek that was tipped in mid-air to end out the third quarter with the Eagles’ lead of 35-14.


Early in the 4th quarter,  two personal foul calls against BCHS led to a successful drive by Rancho Cotate players as they were able to score on a 12-yard touchdown pass, making it a two-score game at 35-21. The Eagles answered right back two plays later as Ronnie Simril bounced off a hit and broke away for an 80-yard touchdown play that made the score 42-21. The Eagles defense locked it up as BCHS hung on to win by that final score of 42-21.


Stanford commit and star tight end Ben Yurosek had three touchdowns in his final game as a BCHS Eagle. Dominic Gamboni finished with 344-yards and four touchdowns with 159 of those yards being to Ronnie Simril, who had the one touchdown.


The Eagles finished the year (12-3) and as the Central Section CIF Champions as well as the State Champions. The Eagles hope to carry this momentum into next season with crucial players Jess Wattenbarger and Kresean Kizzy returning to continue the BCHS legacy of hard work and perseverance.