Mission Hills fans cheer a goal-line stand by the Grizzlies at the end of the first half.
SAN MARCOS What a 10th anniversary gift for the community.
By winning the San Diego Section Open Division championship last week, the first section football title in its 10-year history, Mission Hills High earned the right to host Bakersfield in what was more than just another game.
The Grizzlies were the only local team to host a state game Friday night, and the Southern California Regional Division I matchup had a different feel long before the opening kickoff of what became a 35-28 Bakersfield win.
Extra bleachers imported from the baseball and softball fields as well as from middle schools increased the capacity at Grizzlies Stadium from about 4,000 seats — the minimum needed to host the game — to more than 4,500. Extra bleachers were positioned on both sides of the visitors’ stands, as well as in both end zones.
“People are excited because this is our first state game,” Mission Hills Athletic Director Ken Putnam said. “We’ve never been a part of something this big.
“We want to represent San Diego well. San Diego has always been represented well in the state bowl games. Oceanside, Madison, Helix and Cathedral (Catholic) had great success, and we want to follow in their footsteps.”
No events were canceled at Mission Hills this week, though soccer games were moved to different sites. The boys team moved a home game to Vista on Thursday, and the girls team moved its Thursday home game to University City so the football team could practice on the field.
The football team’s postseason awards banquet, scheduled for Thursday, was postponed until January.
“In the old days, I would get about 15 calls a day, mostly people looking for tickets,” Putnam said. “Now I have to search through my emails and spam.”
The last time Bakersfield played in San Diego County was a state championship game against San Diego High back in 1922.
“A lot has changed since then,” Bakersfield Athletic Director Jeff Scott said. “It took a 12-hour train ride to get to the game, and we were known as Kern County High back then.
“There was a completely different feeling on campus this week. We won our 36th section title last week, but this was different.
“We didn’t care that we had to drive four hours to the game. We would have driven eight hours to Folsom if that’s what it took.”
The Drillers — and virtually all of their more than 1,000 fans on eight buses — did not stick around after the game. They headed right home.
Scott, though, said he will spend the weekend in Mission Valley to do some Christmas shopping.
“We had to get a special waiver for this game because it was more than 150 miles from campus,” Scott said. “They said they made a special provision for the Drillers.”
Officials from Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties combined to work the game.