Almost 1,000 yards were racked up between both offensive juggernauts. The Renegades pulled away from COC at the close of the 1st half to take a 16 point lead, but the Cougars came roaring back behind 3rd string QB Bradford McClellan, whose running ability and strong arm had the Renegades scrambling. The Cougars had already lost talented signal caller Andrew Miramontes earlier this season, and second teamer Joey Frias went down with a shoulder injury early in this game. But McClellan had an inspiring and determined day and made some huge clutch plays. In the end, McClellan's magic fell short as a throw into the endzone late in the 4th floated past a fallen receiver and into the arms of DB Keith Thompson, to preserve a 45-41 victory for the Renegades. The win gave Bakersfield their second straight WSC title, the first 10-0 regular season since their National Championship 19 years ago, and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The entire game seemed like a heavyweight battle as the Renegades methodically ate up clock and controlled the ball with hard runs by Pat Patterson and Bruce Frieson mixed with bubble screens to Brandon Banks and deep passes to Attrail Snipes. But the Cougars would respond with big punches on 3rd downs behind RBs Rafael Reynolds and Fred Winborn, and a courageous game by McClellan whose athleticism was giving the Renegade defense fits. Down 28-19 with under 2 minutes to go in the first half, the Cougars tried to battle out of deep in their own territory when a blindsided McClellan's pass bounced off a receiver and was picked by LB Darren Mackey to set up the 16 point halftime advantage.
McClellan led the Cougars to a second half comeback highlighted by a 75 yard TD scamper by Winborn, and a QB keeper for a score that saw the Renegade lead melt by the end of the 3rd quarter. Even when it seemed like the Gades D had stiffened, McClellan would throw or run to keep drives alive including a big 4th and 17 completed pass. Before long, the Bakersfield faithful sat in shock as another TD run by McClellan and a subsequent 2 point conversion gave the Cougars their first lead at 41-38.
Neither team was going to lay down though, the Cougars came roaring back to pass the Gades, but the Renegades calmly drove down the field, and on a third and six at the Canyons 11, found Brandon Banks in the endzone that would give BC the lead back at 45-41. That set up the game winning interception by Thompson to end the game.
This game was a fan's delight, and a game deserving of being called a Championship tilt. Both teams had to struggle through some injuries to get to this point, and there was no quitting by either side. When these two teams meet, it is always a classic battle no matter what the circumstances. Bakersfield College Coach Jeff Chudy was glad for the win against a great team, but was a little disappointed in the defensive effort of the Gades. "It was a great win and I thought we played well offensively, but the defense gave up too many big plays on 3rd downs. We had sacks we let get away for big plays. Hats off to them though at the end when they made the plays they had to." Cougar Coach Garett Tujague was disappointed with the close loss, but told his kids he was very proud of them for taking it to the Renegades in the second half and never giving up. This was by far the toughest environment they had ever played in as the huge Renegade crowd sounded more like 30,000 fans than 9,000, and conjured up memories of the old Renegade glory days when 15,000 to 20,000 fans would be in attendance for a game like this.
Canyons should make the playoffs, and there is even a possibility that they could meet the Gades again as early as next week if the Cougars 2 loss season puts them as the #8 team. But I think the coaches who will be rating the final 8 playoff contenders, realize that the Cougars are a top 4 team. This is a team that came very close to knocking off the number 1 team in their crib using their 3rd string QB, albeit a talented 3rd stringer. Bakersfield limped their way into their top seeding fighting off a multitude injuries too. They have been without the services of their best possession receiver, Dashan Miller, and Attrail Snipes, their deep threat, is still babying a tender ankle as evidenced by his limping off the field after plays. Brandon Banks (photo) shattered the Renegade single season reception record by making 13 catches for 135 yards, giving him 68 receptions on the year. Banks has been the Renegades most reliable player this season, and the diminutive 5'9 speedster is as hardnosed a player as there is. Jacob Bower is one of the toughest QBs I've seen. He too has battled injuries but has not missed a snap and is the consumate team leader. He was 22/35 for 235 yards and 5 TDs.
His season statistics, although impressive, don't come close to telling the whole story as he has probably sat out more than a third of all offensive snaps this season.
One thing I've always noticed about COC is that when the 4th quarter comes, they don't get tired. That's a credit to Coach Robert Dos Remedios, a contributor to jcfootball.com, who trains his kids hard. The Gade defense was huffing and puffing not only from trying to contain Winborn and Reynolds, but chasing McClellan all game. Winborn ended up with a solid 126 yards rushing. Whoever draws the Cougars will not be happy about it. After an uncharacteristic .500 season last year, not much has been said about them, especially after an opening day overtime loss to Fullerton. But this team has a plethora of offensive weapons and a scheme that is hard to defend. They have steadily improved back to their old status as an elite Junior College team. I know the Renegades would rather see them later than sooner, and the upcoming playoffs should be as good as it gets for entertainment value. Support your team!