A student walks past a sign for the school's football team at Edison High School in Huntington Beach, Calif., on March 10, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Bakersfield might not exactly be Maui, but the city in California’s Central Valley figures to look awfully good to Edison High School’s football team later this week.
After having their planned season-opening, two-game road trip to Hawaii canceled because of wildfires that devastated Lahaina and other parts of Maui in early August, the Chargers weren’t sure they would be able to play a full 10-game schedule.
Edison, of Huntington Beach, quickly added a week-zero game against Helix of La Mesa in San Diego County, but filling the remaining scheduling void, for this week, proved far more challenging.
Finally, thanks to a fortuitous sequence of events and a big helping hand from Bakersfield College, the Chargers will travel north to face Wilcox of Santa Clara in a neutral-site game Sept. 22 on the Renegades’ home field. Wilcox, a Central Coast Section school, is coincidentally also known as the Chargers.
“The fact we were able to pick up this game says volumes for our coaching staff and administration, which did a lot of work, and obviously our kids, who stayed patient knowing we would eventually find something,” Edison Athletic Director Rich Boyce told The Epoch Times. “Luckily, we did.”
Edison officials pursued multiple leads for possible matchups but came up empty at every turn until early this month when Coach Jeff Grady saw something from Wilcox counterpart Paul Rosa on a state-wide coaches’ email chain.
Students play a high school game of Football in Irvine, Calif., on Sept. 14, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
“I replied almost instantly,” Mr. Grady told The Epoch Times.
It turned out that Wilcox not only had an originally scheduled bye this week, but because an opponent had forfeited a game last week, the Santa Clara school needed a dance partner to fill out its 10-game schedule.
The respective Chargers coaches had no previous ties, but once they hooked up, it became a matter of finding a venue that would work for both schools.
“We weren’t able to go all the way down there because it’s too far,” Mr. Rosa told The Epoch Times. “Even though [Bakersfield] is a long trip, it’s cheaper and we’re able to do it in one day. We couldn’t stay overnight anywhere. We just tried to kind of think outside the box.”
Formerly the offensive coordinator at Fresno State, Mr. Grady put his Central Valley connections to work. He called Bryan Nixon, the coach at Bakersfield’s Liberty High, who then got in touch with Reggie Bolton, Bakersfield College’s athletic director.
“They just made it happen, which is pretty awesome,” Mr. Grady said. “They made it very seamless. It’s been the easiest thing we’ve had to do all year, really.”
Bakersfield College’s field, which has a history of hosting high school playoff action, is available on Fridays because Renegades home games are played on Saturdays. The school is providing use of the facility free of charge, and will admit spectators for no entry fee.
Students play a high school game of football in Irvine, Calif., on Sept. 14, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
“This is not about us making money off it,” Mr. Bolton told The Epoch Times. “We’re a community college. We always look forward to helping the community any way we can. It’s a great opportunity for us to meet student-athletes from different parts of the state. It’s about getting them to our campus and letting them see what we do. You never know. Maybe down the road they need an opportunity to play somewhere, they don’t get a scholarship, and they end up here. It’s a win-win for us, just as much as for them.”
The hospitality of Mr. Bolton and other Bakersfield College officials has certainly not gone unnoticed.
“They’ve been really good to us, and we’re very pleased they were able to help this work out,” Mr. Boyce said. “These days, nobody wants to help anybody because they don’t want to go through the trouble. It’s huge that we can get this game in because of what they are doing for us.”
Edison is hopeful of being able to reschedule a Hawaii trip in the next year or two, not only to play football, but to do what it can to assist the Maui community, Mr. Boyce said.
For now, the game against Wilcox will feature a 6 p.m. kickoff to facilitate earlier returns home for both teams. Wilcox will enter with a record of 2-2, while Edison is 1-3, including a four-point loss to Helix and a three-point defeat against Palos Verdes.
“I think they’re really good,” Mr. Rosa said. “Even watching them on film, they were in those games. It’s not like they couldn’t have been 2-2 or 3-1.”
Regardless of the outcome, just playing the game is a victory in itself.
“How it came together is still kind of hard to believe, but it did and here we are,” Mr. Grady said. “The players deserve an opportunity to play 10 games, and they’re going to get it.”