Renegades lose chance in playoffs

Leanne Cave

The Bakersfield College football season came to a bittersweet end after a 23-20 overtime loss to the El Camino Warriors before 5,452 screaming fans in the Southern California Regional Championship game on Dec. 2 at Memorial Stadium.
It was a sweet season for the Renegades as they enjoyed an impressive 11-2 season and won the Western State Conference North Division outright with a 7-0 record.
“We did some amazing things this year,” said Kenny Graham, BC defensive back. “We became stronger and stronger as a team every week, and we developed a lot of team chemistry.”
Graham, a sophomore, has been a stellar part of the defensive scheme for the ‘Gades and in the last two years has made key interceptions that have helped to turn the momentum of a game back into the favor of BC. This season, Graham has accounted for seven picks and was chosen WSC first team.
The bitter part is the reality that the state championship game was in reach and the ‘Gades let it slip away.
“It just left a bad taste in our mouths,” said Carl Dean, BC offensive coach. “We missed our opportunities to win the game. We were so close to playing for a state championship, and we let it slip by us.”
It was obvious that El Camino came to play in the first quarter as they took an early 7-0 lead when running back Jamicah Bass scored on a 1-yard run and kicker Joe Houston kicked the extra point. BC tied the score 7-7 in the second quarter when running back J.R. Rogers dashed into the end zone from 2 yards out and kicker Will Johnson added the extra point.
El Camino, however, notched the next 10 points on a 47-yard field goal by Houston, a 5-yard fumble return for six points by defensive back James Wheeler and another extra point by Houston.
With the Warriors ahead 17-7, it looked as though the SoCal championship game was going to be a blowout in favor of the visitors from Torrance.
But as the Renegade defense has done so many times this season, they took control not allowing another point by the Warriors offense until overtime.
In fact, the only other score that either team could muster until the fourth quarter was a 38-yard field goal by BC’s Johnson just before the end of the first half that brought the ‘Gades to within 17-10.
With less than two minutes remaining in the contest, BC had one last chance to tie the score and take its state championship hopes into overtime.
In the final drive, Stone methodically marched the ‘Gades down the field mixing the run with the pass and never lost his cool. What was really unique about this drive was the fact that players who haven’t seen much action made the plays when they counted the most. Tight end Mitchell Horack, who had only made three catches this season, stepped up to the plate and caught a 20-yard pass to set up the winning score.
With 19 seconds left on the clock and title hopes hanging in the balance, Stone fired an 8-yard dart to wide receiver J.P. Masuda, Johnson kicked the extra point and the final regulation score was 17-17.
“He (Stone) did an awesome job in leading the offense,” said Curtis Cornelson, BC inside linebacker.
In the overtime period, BC had the ball first and 25 yards to put some kind of a score on the scoreboard. The tough Warrior defense held the ‘Gades out of the end zone and forced the ‘Gades to settle for a 38-yard field goal by Johnson. That made the score 20-17.
Then it was El Camino’s turn; 25 yards and at least a field goal to tie and keep playing. Unfortunately for the ‘Gades, the Warriors made their biggest play of the year. On a third and 11 from the 26-yard line, quarterback Boo Jackson threw a strike to wide receiver Corey Surrency for a touchdown and a 23-20 victory.
“It was a game we could have won,” Cornelson, said. “We had our chances, we didn’t get it done. It was a good season, and I had a lot of fun. Playing for BC has been a good experience.”
Cornelson has received some prestigious awards this year. He was named as a first-team All-American by the JC Grid-Wire as well as selected as defensive player of the year by the WSC.
The ‘Gades were more fortunate in the outcome of the SoCal regional semifinals as they defeated the Grossmont Griffins 13-6.
This was defensive struggle from start to finish as the highly touted Griffin offense could only manage two 20-yard field goals by kicker Jared Ballman against the tough BC defense. As for the ‘Gades, the passing game was intact as Stone threw an 89-yard touchdown strike to Brandon Banks and back-up quarterback Dustin Powell connected on a 40-yard touchdown pass.
Twenty Renegades earned All-WSC honors. Some of the players not yet mentioned are:
First-team: Ron Jones, sophomore defensive lineman; Aaron King, freshman defensive lineman; Mark Johnson, freshman linebacker.
Second-team: Daron Mackey, freshman linebacker; Brian Putman, sophomore defensive back; Jose Gonzales, freshman defensive back.
Honorable mention: Will Johnson, sophomore kicker; Teddy Dellaganna, freshman punter and Crispin Fernandez, freshman defensive lineman.
“I am proud of this team,” said BC coach Jeff Chudy. “We became stronger and stronger every week as a team. If you looked at the game film from week to week, you could see how well this team progressed and came together.”