The two teams have a storied history of battles between them going back to the old powerhouse Metro Conference. The head coaches are two of the most respected and liked in Juco football. And if that wasn't enough, it was a rematch of the Southern California Championship game in which the Warriors pulled out a victory in overtime on a throw into the end zone that was not the play called by the coach. This game could not possibly live up to the history...but it did...and more. This time, with over 5,200 raucous fans in attendance, it was the Renegades who marched 82 yards down the field with less than a minute and a half to play to score the winning TD on a fade pass from QB Jacob Bower to Tight End Seth Damron with no time left on the clock. The game will certainly go down as an epic classic in both school's storied histories.
Bakersfield looked like a well oiled machine in the opening drive as they marched down the field from their own 36. QB Jacob Bower hit WR Dashan Miller in the back of the endzone for an apparent touchdown, but the back judge was so busy looking for his flag to call pass interference, he didn't see that Miller came down with the ball. The Gades ended up scoring on an Arturo Villa field goal with 10:51 to go in the first to make it 3-0. It would not be the last time that ref would incure the wrath of the Gade faithful.
Elco QB Boo Jackson move his team with just as much authority on their first possession. It seemed the Gades would hold them to a field goal attempt, but on a 4th and 3, they converted the 1st down when 245-pound FB Patrick Hill plowed through the line. After a substitution penalty on the Gades, Tavares Pressley took it in from four yards out to give the Warriors a 7-3 lead with 6:01 to go in the quarter.
Both defenses seemed to settle down with three and outs, but Bakersfield was guilty of a roughing the punter penalty. Jackson then threw a 38 yard strike to an outstretched Verran Tucker who momentarily bobbled the ball, then recaptured it for a big 1st down. From the 16, Jackson hit Jeremy Francis on the sideline and he took it in for a 14-3 Elco lead with 2:28 to go.
The Gades got back in the game when Bower hit WR Attrail Snipes on a perfectly thrown post for a 65-yard score making it a 14-10 game at the end of the 1st. Jackson immediately responded, mixing it up well and getting it down to the Gades 5. But BC's defense pushed them all the way back to the 33 yard line culminated by a Mark Johnson sack of Jackson forcing the Warriors to punt.
The Renegades took the lead when Bower hit mighty mite WR Brandon Banks who juked his way into the endzone, leaving a trail of defenders in his wake, and giving the Gades a 17-14 lead.It seemed that the momentum was turning towards Bakersfield when a Warrior returner touched his knee down trying to field the kickoff at their own 6 yard line. But Jackson would have none of that, and the Warriors created a bad matchup when 5-8 CB Keith Thompson had to go 'mano y mano' with 6-4 stud receiver Corey Surrency, and the big wideout used his size to out position him, and made the 42-yard grab down to the 7 yard line. Pressley took it in from there to give Elco a 21-17 halftime lead.
The Warriors were determined to show why they were the #1 rated team in the land right out of the gate in the second half. The Gades held them on their first possesion, but DE Josh Berard jumped the route on a swing pass to Banks, batted the ball in the air, and then picked it off at the BC 23 yard line. Jackson immediately took advantage of it, and the Warriors crossed up the Gades defense leaving Verran Tucker wide open in the endzone and Jackson lofted a touch pass for six over a confused secondary. That gave the Warriors some breathing room at 28-17.
The wheels seemed to be coming off for the home team when the Warrior D-line kept coming hard on Bower. A grounding penalty followed by a shanked punt gave Elco great field position at the BC 45-yard line. The Gade defense held, but Elco kept the pressure up on defense. However, Bower's physical strength bought him time to find Banks for 34 yards. The 235-pound signal caller started keeping the Elco defense honest on QB draws. Then the biggest break of the game for the Gades occured when Bower threw into the end zone. DB Lamar Johnson had good coverage and a chance at a diving interception, but the ball popped up and 'Johnny on the Spot' Banks caressed the rebound for a score putting BC back in the game at 28-24 at the end of three.
The Gades defense held after the kickoff, and Bower agained used his brute strength and wheels to keep a drive going. Bower saw Damron open over the middle at about the 10 yard line, but a hard rush by the Warrior D made him fire it too quickly. Bakersfield settled for a Villa field goal that just made it inside the left post to close the score to 28-27.
A penalty put the Warriors back at their own 8 yard line. But Surrency made a teriffic nab in traffic out to the 30. Boo then hit Francis on the sideline for another 1st. Another Surrency reception had Elco methodically moving the ball down field. Bakersfield was called for a pass interference in the end zone. But Michael Smith threw Pressley for a loss, and the Warriors settled on a 35-yard field goal by James Cullen to take an important 4 point lead at 31-27 with a little over 7 minutes left.
Bower started moving the Gades down the field with his arm and his strong pocket presence.
Damron was open over the middle and was draped by a defender, but much to the chagrin of a vocal Gades crowd, no flag was thrown. On a 4th and 4, Bower was sacked and it seemed that the Warriors would prevail in this battle between the two top ranked teams in the nation.
With only 2:47 to go, everyone assumed that the Warriors would run the clock. The Gades put 8 in the box, but Pressley found the outside and raced down the sideline before losing the handle on the ball out of bounds. But then, inexplicably, the Warriors threw the ball into traffic where it could have been picked off. That stopped the clock, and everyone thought they wouldn't do that again. But they did. Another incompletion stopped the clock, and the Gades still had two timeouts left.
The Gades coralled the ensuing punt at their own 18 yard line, with 1:19 to go. Bower pump faked and picked up a first on a scamper to the sideline. Then he hit Dalton who dove out of bounds to stop the clock with 45 ticks left at the Warrior 42. He hit Dalton again over the middle, and a Warrior was flagged for a helmet to helmet hit that had Dalton seeing stars. Not only did that give them a 1st and 10 at the 10, it also stopped the clock. It seemed that Banks would be the hero as he had the winning grab in the endzone, but it came loose. That set up the game winning play. Bower tossed it up in the corner, Damron went up and caught the ball over a defender at it's apex, losing a shoe on the way down, but holding on for the winning TD and a 33-31 victory for the home team. He was mobbed in the endzone just as Surrency had been last season in their last play victory. Both winning catches were in the same endzone. The affable Damron would only thank Jesus for the opportunity to make a big play at the end of the game. He said of the Warriors, "They are one fantastic team, I don't know if we want to see them again, but we'll probably hook up." A passing Warrior said, "Yeah, but we want to see YOU again."
I've seen many classic games over the years, but this one is right up there with the best. Only the fact that it was a preseason game keeps it from being the top game. Although the Renegades certainly got revenge against the Warriors, unlike last year, it wasn't for all the marbles, and they may eventually meet up again in the SoCal playoffs.
The Warriors have NO weakness. They are superb in every aspect from their coaching staff, to their kicking game. The offensive line is not only NFL sized, (they must average 6'4 320), they are athletes. Their defensive backs are as good as it gets. Tavares Pressley (15 carries for 80 yards)is a load to tackle with speed, and Boo Jackson (18/27 298 yards and 2 TDs) will be wowing fans on the next level. Corey Surrency is a physical specimen who will be a huge recruit and eventual NFL prospect. I think he is tripping to Florida State next week after their game.
Bakersfield has its best team since 2000. The defense led by Daron Mackey, Daniel Calvin, and Aaron King is formidable up front. Mackey played the second half with a tweaked ankle, but the leader of the D refused to be kept out of the game. The DBs are pretty fair now, but will get better as the season progresses. On offense, speed kills. Banks, Snipes, and Miller are a formidable triumvert for Bower (21/37 for 335 yds and 4 TDs) to throw to. Gade fans better enjoy him now, because some D-1 school will snatch him up early after this season. The BYU bounceback has a tremedous arm, has 4.7 speed, and runs like a fullback. It is almost a certainty that he will smash the single season passing records for Bakersfield. Banks, who was also nursing a sore ankle, already has almost 400 yards on about 20 catches in two games. RB Pat Patterson did a good job of keeping the Warriors honest on the pass rush with 69 yards on 17 carries. Damron came through at the end which is only fitting. His family IS BC football. Dad Brent was not only a solid TE for the Gades, he was also on the coaching staff for years. Grandpa Duane is a juco legend as a line coach, who turned down many D-1 offers over the years to stay at the college and community he loves.
Coach Featherstone had a 'live by the sword, die by the sword' attitude after the game."Bakersfield made the plays down the stretch, just as we did last year." Although disappointed with the loss, he was not disappointed in his team's play or commitment to win.
They will play an improved Riverside team next week, who will wish that they had pulled it out. The Warriors will get right back on track.
For Bakersfield it was a satisfying rematch and a fitting way to win. These two teams were not ranked 1 and 2 for no reason. Although Coach Chudy is satisfied with the win, he reminded his boys that they have a long way to go, and that they were only 2-0. He told them they beat a great team, but it will be time to go to work again on Monday.
These two teams will be the favorites to make the SoCal final. But they are no locks. Saddleback and Mt. SAC are also formidable teams and it only takes one hiccup to throw the season off script. It's going to be one helluva ride this season.