Owl's Head Coach Kevin Emerson had a sound game plan on both sides of the ball to keep the game close until Bakersfield could get on a roll in the second half. Because Citrus was outsized on both sides of the ball, they used quick screens and draws, and a stunting defense to keep the Gades off balance for the first half of the game. In the end, it was forced turnovers and mistake free football by Bakersfield that was the real difference in this 1st round playoff game. This was the 10th straight home victory for the Renegades, who will get a big step up in competition next week at home against a Grossmont team who is finding it's stride at just the right time.
Things started out well for a prepared Owl team when Anthony Sutton ran through about 3 Gade tacklers, and took the kickoff 55 yards all the way down to the Gade 47-yard line. QB Bryan Waggener hit Charles Lewis on two consecutive screens for 12 and 10 yards, followed by a nice draw to WSC leading rusher Leonard Mason. A penalty against BC put the Owls deep in scoring position at the Renegade 3 yard line. But a delay of game, and a tough red zone defense had the Owls settling for a 25 yard field goal by Kirk Cabana, and a 3-0 lead.
When the Gades got the ball, fullback Pat Patterson hit a stunting wall on a third and short, and the Owls were looking fired up on both sides of the ball. Citrus was moving the ball again, but the first of several turnovers occurred when CB Kenny Graham intercepted Waggener at the Gade 10-yard line. After a couple of runs by J.R. Rogers, the Gades got out of the hole, but still weren't comfortable with their blocking assignments. After the Gade punt, Mason took another screen 29 yards into BC territory, and the Renegade faithful, expecting an easy win, were squirming a little in their seats. Both teams exchanged punts, and the Owls were happy to be winning the game and the field position battle. But near the end of the 1st quarter, the Renegades recovered a fumble on the Owl 25 yard line where LB Darren Mackey pounced on it. A keeper by QB Cody Stone gave them a 1st and goal at the Owl 8, and J.R. Rogers (PHOTO UPPER LEFT) took it in from there to give the Gades a 6-3 lead. The extra point was thrown off course when an Owl tipped it at the line of scrimmage.
On their next possession, a face mask put the Owls near midfield, but Waggener threw an ill advised pass into heavy coverage and Kenny Graham picked off his second pass of the half. Eric Velez then raced around the left side for 21 yards to the Owl 23 yard line. After a 20 yard bubble screen, Rogers took it in from 3 to give the Gades a 21-3 lead when the extra point was again missed.
When the Owls got the ball back, Waggener came through when he threaded the needle over the middle on a third and thirteen, and Charles Lewis went horizontal to catch the ball just before it would hit the turf. BC once again stiffened up in the red zone, and the Owls settled for a 39 yard field goal by Cabana to cut the lead to 12-6.
Stone then hit Brandon Banks over the middle, and the quick WR got into Owl territory at the 32. Stone found T.J. Lee inside the ten, but he was just out of bounds and the Gades settled for a 32 yard field goal by Will Johnson, and took a 15-6 lead into the half.
Coach Emerson went for broke on the kickoff and caught the Gades napping with an onsides kick that the Owls recovered near midfield. Eunique Williams kept a drive alive on a 3rd and 4, when he made an excellent diving catch on an out. The Owls continued to use quick outside passes followed by play action draws to Mason that kept BC guessing. On a 4th and one, the Owls outguessed themselves when they tried a reverse on a fake dive and Lewis was dumped for a 15 yard loss.
Citrus was controlling the ball in the 3rd quarter, and Mason broke off a 41 yard run down to the Gade 30 on a draw. The talented back broke several tackles that kept a determined Owl team in the game. Mason plowed a couple of more runs to get inside the Gade 20, and Brian Putman looked like he might have picked off a pass at the goal line, but the Ref saw that the ball bounced off the turf and not a players leg. The Renegades stopped a couple of more draws, and Cabana's 35 yard Field Goal attempt hooked low and wide.
The Renegades sputtered on offense, but on a punt, Anthony Sutton bobbled a fair catch and Aaron King recovered it at the the Owl 45. J.R. Rogers then hit the line, bounced outside, and was off to the races on a 45 yarder to paydirt, giving the Gades some breathing room at 22-6. Rogers was sprung on a nice block by 150 lb WR Brandon Banks. That run put Rogers over the 1,000 yard mark for the season.
Banks saved the day again when he took an Owl punt 63 yards for the score, giving Bakersfield an insurmountable 29-6 lead.
Citrus was really put in the hole when the Gades pooched a kickoff that was mishandled and dropped the Owls deep in their own territory at the 8 yard line. But a face mask quickly got them out of that hole. Early in the 4th, Keith Thompson almost missed a sure pick when he saw daylight down the sideline, but he went back to get it after it popped up in the air, and on a fourth and short, the Rengades missed a 35-yard field goal.
Mason came through again on a 40 yard run, but the Gades stuffed him on a 4th and 2 feet to take over. The elusive T.J. Lee caught a quick pass, and made the defensive back look like a Mike Tyson knockout victim when he juked him out of his shorts and rambled 50 yards inside the Owl 20. Pat Patterson followed a Rogers 8 yard run, with a 13 yard run untouched up the gut, and the Owls were finished down 36-6.
Waggener was not giving up though, and started to show off his arm with some successful deep passes, finally hitting Josh Quezeda on a 37-yard strike to close out the scoring at 36-12.
A nice game plan by the Owls to keep them in the game for over a half. They had the solid Gade defense off balance on several plays with quick hitting screens and draw plays. There was a reason why Mason led the WSC in yards this season. He is a smart runner who is hard to bring down, and can shift gears and make positive yards on almost every play. He had just over 150 yards in this game. In the end, turnovers turned a close game into a rout. The Owls were outsized and out-quicked, but Coach Emerson always plays the Gades tough no matter what the talent levels are. It took the Renegades a while to figure out their assignments. Coach Emerson was pleased with his team's efforts, but realized that 5 turnovers would not produce an upset. The Owls end a productive year as WSC Southern Champs with a 7-4 record.
The Renegades are living by an opportunistic defense that gets tough inside the red zone, and big play speed by the offense. Each game you think that the offense is not consistent enough to carry the day, then boom, they get a huge run. Coach Chudy was glad to get this game behind him. "At times we are playing well, and other times we are inconsistent. We didn't do a good job of covering kickoffs today, but hey, if you would have asked us if we'd take the position we are now in at the beginning of the season, we wouldn't hesitate."
The turning point for the Gades this season seems to be when Cody Stone took over at QB. Although he is not putting up numbers that would scare opponents, he is smart enough to realize that if he doesn't turn the ball over, his defense and skill players on offense can make big plays. After the Saddleback game, the defense has played solid football, but still sometimes suffers a lack of concentration on finishing tackles. Too many times this season a back has run through a tackle on a 3rd and 8 to keep a drive going. But when teams get into the red zone, this defense gets stingy, and that is the hallmark of all good defenses.
Mason's impressive running ended up garnering him the Offensive Player of the Game with 158 yards on 19 carries. CB Kenny Graham's two important first half interceptions gave him the Defensive Player of the Game honors. J.R. Rogers ended up as the game's M.V.P. He had 132 yards on 20 carries and three TDs. After a slow start this season, probably due to an inexperienced front line, he has become only the 4th Renegade to get over 2,000 yards in his career. Although not an award winner in this game, Brandon Banks came up huge with 75 yds in punt returns, 3 catches, and threw the block that sprung Rogers on his long TD romp. Teddy Dellaganna had his best punting performance of the year averaging about 45 yards a boot. On the bad side, the Gades lost DB Lucas Ahearn to a season ending leg injury.
The halftime show included a parachute drop by the Black Daggers Jump team of the U.S. Army. The game still had about 4 minutes to go until halftime when the streamers that gauge the wind started flying onto the Owls side of the field. Gade fans probably assumed that the much penalized Renegades were getting flagged by God now. It would have made for an interesting call had one of them dropped on a runner and tripped him up on his way to score!
Next week, defending State and National Champs Grossmont comes to Bakersfield. The Griffins have one of the best defenses in the country, and have just now started to find their legs on offense. It will be a big chore for the # 2 Renegades to stop the Griffin momentum. In 2000, the Gades beat the Griffs twice, and both games literally came down to the very last play. This game should be another slobberknocker.
First Downs: 11, 17
Rushing YDS: 179, 131
Passing YDS: 131, 95
Penalties: 9/91, 5/30
Turnovers: 0, 5
Citrus - 25 yd Cabana Field Goal - 10:27 - 3-0
BC - 8 yard run - Rogers - 13:34 - kick failed - 6-0
BC - 3 yard run - Rogers - 9:26 - kick failed - 12-0
Citrus - 39 yd field goal - Cabana - 4:38 - 6-12
BC - 32 yd field goal - Johnson - 15-6
BC - 45 yd run - Rogers - 3:35 - Johnson kick - 22-6
BC - 63 yd punt return - Banks - 2:27 - Johnson kick - 29-6
BC - 13 yd run - Patterson - 7:23 - Johnson Kick - 36-6
Citrus - 37 yard pass - Waggener to Quezada - 2 pointer failed - 36-12