Bakersfield Captures WSC Northern Crown

On a wet Warriors Stadium field in Santa Maria, the Bakersfield College Renegades used a stifling defense and big play offense to give them their 12th WSC title, and at least a #3 seeding in the upcoming SoCal playoffs.

Coming into the contest, the Hancock Bulldogs figured to have the advantage on the wet turf with their leaque leading and bruising ground game. But in the end, it was the speed of the Gades, and the relentless D line penetration led by Ron Jones, Aaron King and Daniel Calvin that ruled the day. After taking an initial 3-0 lead, the Gades scored 17 unanswered points to close out the conference undefeated, and negate a possible three way tie between Moorpark, Hancock, and BC that probably would have left them on the outside looking in next week when post season play begins. League leading rusher Andre Cirino was held to a very uncharacteristic 21 yards on 11 carries, while his counterpart, Gade speedster J.R. Rogers, rambled for 187 yards on 21 carries.

1st Half

On the Dogs first possession, Renegade DB Ahearn Lucas missed a golden opportunity for an interception when he dropped a sure pick near midfield, and the damp conditions reared it's ugly head again when, on the Gades first play from scrimmage, J.R. Rogers mishandled a pitch, leading to a 13 yard loss. But the Gades drove down into scoring position behind Rogers runs and a pass out into the flat to TE Mitchell Horack. The Renegades lined up for an apparent 42 yard field goal attempt, but instead faked it and ran left. The Bulldogs weren't biting, and sniffed out the play to end the drive.

Dally then led his troops down the field with his legs and a nice play action dart over the middle to Tyrell Munnerlyn to get Hancock deep in Gade territory at the 34 yard line. After a 16 yard roll out scramble, Dally then hit his brother Joseph Dally on a fade to the Renegade one yard line. But from that point the Renegade defense took control of the game. Three straight runs failed to get Hancock into paydirt, and they settled for what would turn out to be their only score on a 20 yard field goal by Sal Gutierrez near the end of the quarter, giving them a 3-0 lead.

It didn't take the Gades long to respond when QB Cody Stone went deep on a free play after realizing that the Dogs were guilty of encroachment, and found T.J Lee down the left side, who took the pass in stride and raced in for a 67 yard TD and a 7-3 Bakersfield lead. Stone, who's greatest asset is his ability to throw deep, made a great throw despite the fact he had to pick up the shotgun snap on a one hop, that almost certainly made for a wet pigskin.

The rest of the half turned into a typical Hancock/Bakersfield slugout. Dog punter Juan Velsaco did a great job throughout the game kicking away from the BC speed, and pinning the Gade's inside their own 20. Another sure interception, this time by the Gades standout CB Kenny Graham, also fell harmlessly to the turf. They managed to get into Gade territory behind a nice play action pass by Dally to his Tight End for 35 yards and a 1st at the 20, but Safety Brian Putman garnered his 5th interception of the year after another defender batted the ball up in the endzone. The BC defense was still dominating, but penalties and the legs of Dally kept the ball in Hancock's hands, and out of the hands of the Renegade's homerun hitters for the rest of the half, and Hancock went into the locker room at halftime, down only 7-3.

2nd Half

Early in the second half, Hancock Coach Kris Dutra was able to make the Renegades burn a timeout when instead of punting on a 4th down, lined up quickly to go for it. After the timeout, they did punt but managed to take a timeout away from their opponents in what was up to this point a close contest. But after Velasco pinned the Gades again at their own 15, Rogers busted through the line off left tackle and once he got past the secondary, there was no catching the North Carolina High School 100 meter champ on his way to an 85 yard burst for six. That gave the Gades a more comfortable 14-3 lead.

T.J. Lee got past the secondary again when he caught another deep pass and drug a tackler from the Hancock 20 to the 12 on a 68 yard play. Hancock stiffened up, and the Gades settled for a 23 yard field goal by Will Johnson to take a 17-3 lead.

The first three quarters were dominated by the Gade defense who shutdown a Hancock running attack to only about 50 yards rushing in those quarters. Hancock has regularly averaged over 300 yards a game on the ground. Jonathon Dally tried desperately to rally his group single handedly in the 4th quarter, escaping sure sacks for positive yards and taking some hellacious hits. The Gades usually accurate Johnson missed two field goals late in the fourth, but the Bulldogs could not respond, and their playoff aspirations were crushed by the determined Renegades.

Summary

Despite playing with some backup offensive linemen because of injuries, including Center Clayton Rios, Dally played heroically while running for his life most of the game. But the vaunted Dog running attack is predicated on it's big backs getting penetration and running downhill. The Gades were able to meet the attack at the line of scrimmage, and string out runners until help arrived. Dally threw some unadvised passes into coverage, but it only hurt him once on the Putman interception. Although Hancock's aspirations for a playoff bid faded, they will certainly play in a Bowl game and make for a formidable opponent, especially if they get healthy up front.

After a freshman dominated Bakersfield team struggled with an overtime win over Fullerton, and a shaky performance against #1 Saddleback in the first two games, they have improved every game since then.

The turning point that sticks out is when QB Cody Stone came off of the bench in the second half against Canyons, to single handedly rally the troops to victory. His stats were typical today, (7/16 170 yds 1 TD), but those stats don't show what a leader and smart QB he is. Lee could have had more catches, but some of Stone's throws were one hoppers under the wet conditons. It is better, however, to throw the ball too low, than too high, and I think Stone had this fact firmly implanted in his mind.  Especially with his Defense playing so well, he wanted to keep from giving the Dogs any gifts or momentum.

In reality, it is the whole team that has made big strides during the season. The O line, which has only one starting sophomore, has come together nicely to give Rogers that crack into the secondary, and the Defense has improved on their assignments and tackling skills. While defensive stalwarts like sophomores Curtis Cornelson and Ron Jones have made getting through through to the Gade defensive backfield tough, the secondary has quietly collected 15 interceptions. Brian Putman, who started out his career as a receiver and was shifted to safety early last season, has been  a key reason why the Gades defense has improved, not only for his 5 picks, but his open field tackling too.

The Gades will enjoy home cooking in front of the always raucous Gade fans at home next week to open the playoffs. My guess is that they will probably host the Palomar Comets, who after some close early losses to quality teams, have also improved steadily and will be a dangerous opponent. But we shall see how the seedings come out, and there will most definitely be some worthy teams, who just missed out on their chances.

Scoring Summary

1st Qtr

Guiterrez- 20 yard field goal - 2:32 - 3-0
Lee- 67 yard pass from Stone - 1:47 - 7-0 

2nd Qtr

No scoring

3rd Qtr

Rogers - 85 yard run - 9:13 - 14-3
Johnson - field goal - 3:20 - 17-3 

4th Qtr 

No scoring

Stats

BC, AHC

Rushing:      192 yds        131 yds
Passing:      170 yds        129 yds
Total yds:      362 yds       260 yds

 


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