1916-2013: Did Hilltoppers forfeit to Drillers?

It was a moot point for 97 years.

But when Bakersfield defeated Loomis Del Oro, 56-26, in the State Division I championship in 2013 an old dispute surfaced.

Officially the title was Bakersfield’s seventh, along with years of 1920, ’21, ’22, ’23, ’25, and ’27. State championships were not played from 1928-2005.

Bakersfield historians claim the win over Del Oro was the Drillers’ eighth championship, because San Diego High refused to play then-named Kern County Union in 1916.

But did the Hilltoppers’ default, or worse, forfeit?

San Diego coach Clarence (Nibs) Price apparently never agreed to or intended to play the unscheduled game.

Twelve games were enough for Price.

Twelve games were enough for Price.

Student manager Ralph Noisat is reported to have offered Bakersfield a $300 guarantee days before the Southern California final against Los Angeles Manual Arts.

Noisat, probably acting at the behest of the school’s executive committee, apparently issued a challenge, the Hilltoppers to meet Kern County Union in San Diego on New Year’s Day.

Price said no, not now. He would think about it and decide after the Southern California championship game.

Hours after the 9-0 win over Manual Arts Price said his team was “fatigued” and that the Hilltoppers would call it a day, their season complete.

The coach made plans to take advantage of the school Christmas vacation and headed for Catalina. Many players visited friends or relatives in the Los Angeles area before eventually making their way back home.

Noisat possibly acted without consulting Price, who may not have wanted to continue the season because his star player, Bryan (Pesky) Sprott, was nursing late-season injuries and his team had just endured a fierce championship game for an unprecedented 12th consecutive victory.

Or Price was weary of having a student representing school honchos making decisions that were in Price’s purview. The coach is said to not have been informed before a contract was negotiated with Santa Ana earlier in the season.

Bakersfield coach Dwight (Goldie) Griffith thought he had a game. So did his principal, A.J. Ludden, who challenged the state CIF to declare the Drillers champions because San Diego had forfeited.

According to published reports, the CIF declared Bakersfield the 1916 champion.

“Nonscheduled events (such as a state playoff) came down to ‘challenges’ from one school to another,” said San Diego High historian Don King.

Ralph Noisat occupied important position with team.

Ralph Noisat occupied important position.

“These challenges were made by team student-managers, who had inflated responsibilities in those early years. The challenges often were accompanied by insults regarding cowardice, masculinity, or birth illegitimacy.”

Mark Tennis of Cal-Hi Sports, the bible of state high school records, pointed out that “the state CIF doesn’t have its own historian, because we have compiled and have copy-written all of the state records.”

Cal-Hi Sports is the accepted guardian of California high school records in virtually all sports.

Tennis said Cal-Hi Sports long ago recognized San Diego High as the best team in the state in 1916.

It also was reported that San Diego’s 12-game schedule possibly was the longest ever played by a high school team to that date. Price may have felt Bakersfield had the advantage of being rested after posting an undefeated season in only six games.

Mark Tennis recommended that Bakersfield’s historian and archivist contact the state CIF for a ruling.

If it wanted to get involved, the state CIF probably could recognize Kern Union as the champion, but it says here that the Drillers would be no more than “mythical” champions, not having won the title on the field, and thus protecting San Diego’s undefeated season.

How can you have a forfeit or default if you never agreed to play in the first place?

From the Bakersfield Californian, Dec. 28, 1916.

From the Bakersfield Californian, Dec. 28, 1916.

“I don’t think anyone around San Diego would object to a Bakersfield claim of another state title, since all directly involved are quite deceased,” concluded King.

MODE OF TRAVEL QUESTIONED

Bakersfield’s march to the state Division I title in 2013 included a 35-28 victory over Mission Hills in the Southern playoff leading to the state final.

The win over the Grizzlies marked Bakersfield’s first appearance in San Diego County since 1952 and its first state elimination game here since 1922.

The Drillers defeated San Diego, 17-6, before a crowd of about 6,000 in City Stadium in 1922 and they made the 230-mile trip in two motor coaches, arriving here the morning of the game after spending the night in Santa Ana.

Bakersfield’s athletic director had told Terry Monahan of UT-San Diego that the team in 1922 had arrived in San Diego after a 12-hour train ride.

Impossible.

There were no passenger trains in 1922 that went South from Bakersfield over the Grapevine and down into Los Angeles County.

And there aren’t any now.

A passenger would step off a train today in Bakersfield and then have to take a bus to Los Angeles before catching Amtrak to San Diego.

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