Warriors Skylar Valencia (pictured above), Sean Casey, and Joseph Blewett are scheduled to play for the Gold Team in the annual
US Army High School Arena football game scheduled for Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield on Friday, April 4, 2014.
Photo courtesy of The Tehachapi News.

Arena Bowl Rosters Finalized
For All-Star Game in Bakersfield

Posted by Stephen Lynch, The Bakersfield Californian, on January 25, 2014

In a banner year for Kern County high school football, the coaching staffs of the U.S. Army Arena Bowl had no trouble loading up their rosters with a plethora of talent during the game's player draft Saturday afternoon.

Forty-eight of the county's top seniors were selected to play in the annual all-star game during the two-hour draft, hosted by Vance Palm and overseen by Game Director Nick Ellis, inside the Three-Way Chevrolet showroom.

This year's game is scheduled for April 4 at Rabobank Arena. The event's awards banquet, in which $4,000 to $8,000 in scholarship money will be handed out, is slated for March 31 at Hodel's restaurant.

Serving as head coach for the Black team is former Bakersfield Blitz player Eric Mahanke.

The Gold squad is led by co-head coaches Sean McKeown of Independence and Bakersfield Christian's Jerald Pierucci.

The first half of the draft's available talent pool consisted of the 24 players voted into the event by fans via Hometown Sports. The second half of the draft was open to any senior Kern County football player in good standing with their school.

Players from 20 different local area high schools were selected, including nine members of BHS' Division I state championship squad. Liberty, with five, had the second most players drafted, followed by Frontier with four. Bakersfield Christian, Centennial, Garces and Stockdale each had three of its players picked.

Centennial's Mark Hernandez was the Black team's first choice of the draft. The Gold team selected B-Varsity All-Area lineman Colton Foster with its first pick.

Liberty lineman JoJo Hurtado (Black team) and BHS quarterback Asauni Rufus (Gold team) were the two first picks of the second/open phase of the draft.

"I'm playing with a lot of guys I grew up playing with so it's going to be a fun experience," Foster said. "I'm excited for the game."

Rufus, who had 3,406 total yards and 31 touchdowns for the Drillers this season, is joined on the Gold team by BHS teammates Kevin Hayes, Jeremiah Reddick, Dillon Littles, Daris Dallas and Jonathon Malone.

The Gold team also features B-Varsity All-Area Defensive Player of the Year Grant Bouma (247 tackles) of BCHS and both of Stockdale's 1,000 yard running backs, Anthony Wood and Xavier Chisholm.

"We got some great kids that are willing to come out and put in that extra time for this all-star game," McKeown said. "Myself and the other (Gold team) coaches are real excited about the kids we got."

Frontier quarterback Evan Moore will direct the Black team's offense. Moore will have two of his favorite targets from the Titans, wide receiver Jasmit Thind and tight end Jordan Nichols, with him on the Black team.

Moore is looking forward to getting to play one more game with and against long-time friends and foes before starting his college career.

"It's fun for us to all get to play together and against each other for one last time," Moore said. "A bunch of us have been playing against each other for four, five, six years. All the way down to youth football."

Team Black drafted plenty of other offensive firepower in the form Bakersfield Christian's Josh Jackson, the county's receiving leader (66 catches for 1,458 yards), along with multi-purpose breakaway threats Dominic Frasch of Garces and BHS' Derrick Vickers.

"I'm really excited," Mahanke said. "I literally got every guy except one, Grant Bauma, that I wanted."

The game will mark the first time playing Arena football for all the players involved.

Wood doesn't think that will be a major issue.

"It's going to be an adjustment but we're all great athletes," he said. "We're just going to use our natural abilities to get the win."

Rufus predicts a good time for fans that buy a ticket for the game.

"With all the talent we have in Bakersfield, to put it all on one field, it seems unfair almost," Rufus said. "It's going to be a real entertaining game."