A capsule look at the Central Section Division IV championship game:
No. 3 Bakersfield Christian (10-2) at No. 1 Mission Oak (12-0)
Kickoff: 7 p.m. Friday, Bob Mathias Stadium
SoCal Bowl Picture: Depending on who you talk to, the winner of this game is automatically going to a CIF Southern California regional bowl game or has a very good chance of going on to the regionals. Mission Oak is ranked No. 3 in the state’s top human poll (CalHiSports.com) for teams eligible for the Division III regional and No. 3 according to the state’s top computer poll (Calpreps.com). The Hawks will move back into the No. 2 slot in the human poll if they win Friday — the top teams, No. 1 Corona del Mar-Newport Beach (13-0) and No. 2 Garden Grove (13-0), meet in the Southern Section Division IX final and only section champions are considered for bowl bids. Best-case scenario for Mission Oak is a win over Bakersfield Christian coupled with El Segundo (10-3) defeating Nordhoff-Ojai (12-1) in the Southern Section Division X final. Nordhoff is the team ranked ahead of Mission Oak in the computer poll. Still feel strongly that Mission Oak goes to the regionals as long as it wins. Bakersfield Christian should have entered this game in a better spot in the polls. The Eagles are expected to be No. 4 in CalHiSports‘ Division IV South bowl poll when the full rankings are released today. One of the teams ahead of Bakersfield Chrisitan, Bishop Diego (10-3) at No. 2, is ineligible for a bowl bid because it lost last week. Christian-El Cajon (11-1), the No. 1 team in the poll, could be forced back to Division II since it is competing in Division III of the San Diego section. The CIF originally ruled that all teams in San Diego’s Division III, no matter how small their enrollment may be, are eligible for the Division II South bowl game. The Division IV bowl game is limited to schools with enrollments of 500 students or less. The other team in the mix for a Division IV South bowl spot is Mission Prep (11-2), the No. 3-ranked team in the CalHiSports’ poll. But Mission Prep is the underdog to Salesian-Los Angeles in the Southern Section Division XII title game.
He wears “6” with good reason: Mission Oak senior Elijah Porchia ranks second in the Central Section with 38 touchdowns and ranks in the top-10 in the state in that category. Porchia has scored at least three touchdowns in eight of the Hawks’ 12 games. He leads all Tulare County players with 2,114 yards rushing, and is just the fourth player from Tulare County to go over 5,000 yards rushing in his career.
These Eagles can fly: Bakersfield Christian junior quarterback Brandon Jones ranks second in the Central Section with 3,528 yards passing (averaging 294 yards passing per game) and is second in the section with 47 touchdown passes. Jones is not reliant on just one top target either. There are four players with at least 30 receptions, led by senior Josh Jackson (55 catches, 1,196 yards, 14 touchdowns). Donald Harris is a dangerous deep-ball threat, averaging 18.5 yards per reception. Jackson’s average of 21.7 yards-per-catch is the sixth-best in the state for players with at least 50 receptions. Focus too much on stopping Jones through the air, and you’re in danger of him torching defenses with his legs. Jones has rushed for over 350 yards with seven touchdowns.
Don’t forget about No. 31: Bakersfield Christian is equally adept at running the ball as it is passing the ball, that is why it is leading the Central Section with 476.7 yards of total offense per game. Junior running back Matt Smith, a powerful runner (listed at 6-1, 210) has 1,356 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns. In his career for the Eagles, Smith has 4,513 yards rushing and 41 rushing touchdowns. In last year’s Division IV semifinal game between the two teams, Smith had 93 yards on 25 carries.
Secret Weapon?: Mission Oak passing game may not have the video-game-like numbers of Bakersfield Christian, but the Hawks have proven that they can make big plays through the air. Hawk sophomore quarterback Trey McJunkin has 1,923 yards passing to go with 27 touchdowns and a 59.8 completion rate. He leads all Central Section sophomores in yards passing, touchdown passes and passer rating (103.4). Top three throwing targets are all juniors — Le’Andre Jefferson, Artemio Padilla and Koby Tripp.
Top Keys for Mission Oak
1. Keep up the defensive intensity all game: No defense in the section has done a better job than Mission Oak in disrupting the initial offensive game plan of opponent. The Hawks have forced opposing offenses to do things they normally don’t want to do in the second half of games. But you can’t lead Bakersfield Christian astray from their game plan — the Eagles like to do everything. Bakersfield Christian will routinely test the Mission Oak secondary. The Eagles will throw the long ball on a consistent basis in hopes of a big play, and they have routinely had at least two long touchdown plays against Central Section opposition this season. It is imperative for Mission Oak to disrupt the rhythm of Bakersfield Christian quarterback Brandon Jones.
2. Limit offensive mistakes: The Hawks can point to three offensive miscues that cost them in last year’s 7-0 Division IV semifinal loss to Bakersfield Christian. The Hawks had two passes intercepted, including one in the end zone, and the game’s lone scoring drive was fueled by the Mission Oak punter being ruled down at the Hawk 29-yard-line trying to retrieve a low snap.
3. Stay focused: There is a big off-field distraction for both teams (Southern California regional bowl game berth on the line), but you can’t worry about what’s going to happen on Sunday. Best thing for the Hawks is to go in with the mindset that this is the last game of the season, and leave everything they’ve got on the field. They shouldn’t care what happens on Sunday. Win Friday night, and it’s the biggest reason to celebrate since the school opened — anything else is just a bonus.
Calpreps prediction: Mission Oak 28, Bakersfield Christian 19