Every football team starts the season with the goal of winning the last game of the season. It's the same goal for the Bakersfield Drillers but this year everything will look different. "There's never been an offseason like this," said Paul Golla, entering his 12th season as head coach.
As Griffith Field undergoes its year long renovation, the 2016 squad is left to practice on a small patch of grass that is wedged on every side by fences smack in the middle of all the construction.
The Drillers will play every game this season on the road with their "home" games taking place at Bakersfield College, Centennial, West and Mira Monte. "Our motto this year is to be uncommon," said Golla.
Nothing is more uncommon than a forge room in the school's ag building being converted into the football team's locker room. But coach Golla has a plan to make sure his kids remain focused. "It doesn't matter if we're here (BHS) or there, we gotta focus on the main thing. Keep the main thing the main thing."
Up in the mountains, another huge storyline. Steve Denman entering his 35th season as head coach of Tehachapi. His seniors say he's preaching the same message. "Teamwork and being a team and just being a genuinely good human being," said guard/linebacker Jackson Caudle. "I think that's what's just stuck with everybody."
Denman sits on 295 career wins and is five away from becoming just the fifth California head coach to join the 300 win club. But when asked if he's thinking about the milestone, "Not at all," he said. "We just take it one game at a time."
One game is on the mind of Shafter's newest coach Jerald Pierucci. "I can't walk ten feet down downtown Shafter or to get something to eat and the first thing they ask me is 'Are you going to beat Wasco?"
It's a rivalry series the Generals have lost for the last ten years. This year's team says Pierucci has brought a change. "Our minds were holding us back," said senior running back Nick Perez. "Now that our minds have changed we feel like this will be a big difference this year."
"These kids aren't losers," said Pierucci. "They've just been part of a losing team...that's what I'm really excited about because I know they're capable."
Ridgeview is the final school we're highlighting before the season starts.
Four straight years the Wolf Pack have played for a section title but this year's core of Amir Knox, Jamar Moya and Jaleyn Prevost more vividly remember their lone loss last year. The Wolf Pack lost 35-20 to Narbonne in a state regional bowl game. "A lot of us still feel that hurt," said senior wide receiver Amir Knox. "We're just ready this year for it and I feel that's what made us hungrier."
Head coach Dennis Manning enters his ninth year as head coach at the school but says he isn't ready to talk dynasty just yet. Instead he's trying to get his players to focus on the process of getting better. "It's hard to think about anything else other than the mistakes we're making right now so we've got a long way to go," he said.
Be sure to catch a revamped 23FNL with more coverage and more games Friday August 27th at 11:00PM.
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