With less than a minute to play, Bakersfield quarterback Asauni Rufus scores the winning touchdown against Mission Hills in Friday’s Southern California Regional game. — Earnie Grafton
SAN MARCOS — A Bakersfield High team that averages eight yards on more than 400 rushes took to the air Friday night, burning the Mission Hills defense for 222 yards en route to a 35-28 win in the Southern California Regional Division I championship.
The Drillers (12-2) advance to the State Football Championship Bowl next Friday at the StubHub Center in Carson where they’ll play Loomis Del Oro, the Northern California winner.
Mission Hills, the San Diego Section Open Division champion, finishes it season 12-2.
Bakersfield scored on all four of its second-half possessions before a standing-room-only crowd of more than 4,500.
The pass came into play on two of those drives, including the game winner.
Trailing 21-14 early in the fourth quarter, Bakersfield quarterback Asauni Rufus hit Lameshio Hill, who was well behind the defense, for a 51-yard touchdown.
Then, with the game tied at 28, Rufus found Derrick Vickers behind the Mission Hills secondary for a gain of 45 yards.
That set the Drillers up at the Mission Hills 15. Three plays later, with 51 seconds to play, Rufus ran in from a yard out to give Bakersfield the lead.
Mission Hills had one last chance, but a nice return on the kickoff by Will Stricklin was wiped out by a holding penalty.
On Mission Hills’ first play, quarterback Connor Wynn was intercepted by Vickers.
“This hurts a lot,” said Wynn, who was 11-of-23 passing for 223 yards and a pair of scores, and rushed for TDs of 44 and 31 yards.
“It was my last game in high school, and it will sting for a while. I thought we played as well as we could.
“They played a great game, too.
“Their offense is really good. They have great playmakers everywhere. And their defense is very exotic. We’d never seen anything like it.”
Bakersfield took the opening kickoff and drove 81 yards on 13 plays, scoring on a 12-yard run by Vickers.
Mission Hills answered on its third play when Wynn hit DeChaun Holiday on a slant and the speedster went 59 yards to the end zone.
After Mission Hills forced a punt, the Grizzlies drove 62 yards on six plays, scoring on a 12-yard pass from Wynn to Zach Harbin.
The Drillers were driving to open the second quarter, but Fred Warner recovered a fumble at the Mission Hills 6.
After a series of punts, Bakersfield was on the move late in the half with Rufus connecting with Coleman Olivas on a 64-yard pass. Holiday made a touchdown-saving tackle at the Mission Hills 15 and the Drillers turned the ball over at the 1 with Holiday recovering a fumble.
Rufus, who rushed for 79 of Bakersfield’s 252 yards, completed all 10 of his passes for 222 yards. He was 9 of 10 in last week’s Central Section championship.