It was one of the most exciting, most dramatic and best-played games in California Community College playoff history before more than 10,000 fans Saturday afternoon in Bakersfield.
That scoring pass capped a superb effort by both teams in a game that neither team ever led by more than a touchdown. The teams combined for over 900 yards of offense and 11 touchdowns, but just one turnover. The game was so evenly played that each team had exactly 27 first downs and only 30 seconds separated the teams in time of possession. It's no wonder that the game went to overtime, and it's no surprise that it went to double overtime.
Bower was the star of stars, completing 24 of 42 passes for 363 yards and 5 TDs without throwing an interception. But Canyons' Fred Winborn was nearly as spectacular, scoring 5 touchdowns himself while leading all rushers with 178 yards on 22 carries. And COC quarterback Bradford McClellan finished 18 of 25 passing for 220 yards, 2 TDs and no interceptions. Plus, each team had a receiver with 10 catches and more than 100 yards receiving.
And as spectacular as the offensive numbers were, the middle of the game was dominated by the defenses. After Bakersfield took a 14-7 lead less than 10 minutes into the game, neither team scored again for nearly an entire quarter. And after the teams went into halftime tied at 21, neither team scored in the third quarter.
Early on, it looked like the game would be a shootout. Bower set the early tone on the first play from scrimmage when he tossed a 47-yard pass to Brandon Banks, and quickly finished the opening 4-play drive with a 16-yard scoring toss to Banks to put the Renegades in front, 7-0, just 2:04 into the game. But Canyons answered back with a 9-play drive, tying the score on Winborn's first touchdown, a 4-yard run 5:24 into the game. Then Bakersfield took the ball and moved swiftly down the field again, going ahead, 14-7, when Bower threw a 6-yard scoring pass to Zack Lewis with 5:15 left in the first quarter.
But then the defenses settled in, and neither team scored after that until Canyons tied the game with 8:29 left in the first half. Bakersfield drove to the Canyons 25 earlier in the quarter, but Arturo Villa's 42-yard field goal try was wide left. After that, the Cougars put together an 8-play, 75-drive that ended with McClellan throwing a 10-yard touchdown pass to Winborn to tie the game at 14.
Each team scored a touchdown late in the first half, knotting the score at 21 at the break. After a Bakersfield punt, Canyons went in front when Winborn scored from 2 yards out to cap a 9-play drive that covered 88 yards, making it 21-14. But Bakersfield responded with another quick, Bower-driven march, covering 75 yards in just 4 plays. A 43-yard pass to Attrail Snipes set up the score, which came on a 13-yard Bower pass to Dashan Miller with 1:17 left in the half.
After the teams combined for 6 touchdowns and 373 yards passing in the first two quarters, the defenses asserted themselves in the third quarter. Neither team scored in the quarter, and neither team mounted a serious threat to score. Bakersfield received the game's only turnover when Michael Smith fell on a loose ball after a botched handoff by McClellan, but three plays later the Renegades not only had to punt, but ended up essentially turning the ball back over to Canyons after a 15-yard punt and a 15-yard penalty on the play gave the Cougars the ball at the previous line of scrimmage.
As soon as the fourth quarter began, the offenses again stepped forward. Canyons struck first, taking a 28-21 lead when Winborn, on a 4th and 2 play, went around the left side and down the sideline for a 40-yard touchdown run with 12:49 left. But Bakersfield answered back right away with Bower's fourth touchdown pass of the game, a 26-yard toss to Attrail Snipes with 10:04 left that again knotted the score.
Canyons went back in front when Hayo Carpenter, who finished with 10 catches for a game-high 130 yards, snatched the ball out of a defender's hands in the back of the end zone for a 38-yard touchdown pass with 8:51 left to make it 35-28. And when the Canyons defense forced a Bakersfield punt, giving the ball back to the Cougar offense with 6:09 left, the visitors seemed to have a chance to put the game away.
But the Bakersfield defense stood firm, forcing a Canyons punt and getting the ball back into the hands of the offense with 3:17 left. Trailing 35-28, the Renegades got the ball at their own 15 yard-line.
On the game-tying drive, Bower got things started with a 14-yard scramble to the 29. Four plays later, Bower kept the Renegades' hopes alive by converting a 4th and 4 situation with a 26-yard pass to Greg Williams that got the ball to the Cougar 39. Then came a 14-yard pass to Dashan Miller and an 11-yard pass to Snipes that got the ball to the 14. Then, just as the game clock passed the one-minute mark, Frieson took the handoff and scored on the next play to tie the game at 35 with 59 seconds remaining.
At the beginning of the first overtime, Canyons won the coin toss and elected to go on defense first. Bakersfield's offense came back out onto the field, and methodically covered the 25 yards to the end zone, going ahead 41-35 on an 8-yard run by Frieson on the fifth play of the drive. Villa's extra point made it 42-35. But Canyons answered back with a 16-yard pass from McClellan to Carpenter, a 5-yard penalty on Bakersfield and a 4-yard scoring run by Winborn, his 5th touchdown of the game, to draw within a point at 42-41 pending the conversion.
On the conversion, Canyons lined up as if to go for two points and the win. Before snapping the ball, the Cougars called timeout, but on the restart again lined up to go for the win. However, before the ball was snapped, the officials flagged the Cougars for having 12 players on the field. With the ball moved back 5 yards, on came Paul Weinstein to kick the 1-point conversion, and his good kick tied the game once again at 42.
Canyons had the ball first to start the second overtime, and this time the Bakersfield defense held firm, forcing the Cougars to settle for a Weinstein field goal. After a 9-yard run by Winborn on first down, the Cougars saw Winborn stopped for no gain on second down and Raphael Reynolds thrown for a 4-yard loss when a lineman was pushed back into his feet on third down. That meant the Cougars faced a 4th and 5 from the 20, and had to settle for Weinstein's good 37-yard field goal that made it 45-42.
And when Bakersfield got the ball, the Renegade offense took advantage of the opportunity the defense had given them. After Frieson was stopped for no gain on first down, Bower threw an 8-yard pass to Banks on second down to get the ball to the 17. Then came a 3-yard run by Bower on a quarterback sneak to get the first down. After a 5-yard offsides penalty on Canyons moved the ball to the 9, Justin Jackson came on for his only carry of the day and gained 4 yards to reach the 5.
Then came the winning pass. Bower rolled slightly to his right, and saw that his tight end, Seth Damron, was wide open in the right half of the end zone and threw him the ball. By the time Damron flipped over backwards with the catch, the entire Renegade team was running out onto the field in celebration and Bakersfield had the victory.
It's often said after a close game that it's a shame either team had to lose. But it was never more true than after this game, which was played so brilliantly by two extraordinary teams.
Bakersfield College Renegades 48
College of the Canyons Cougars 45 (2 Overtimes)
Saturday, November 24, 2007 - 4 pm - Memorial Stadium - Bakersfield
Southern California Playoffs - Semifinal
B - Banks 16 yd pass from Bower (Villa kick) 12:56 (7-0)
C - Winborn 4 yd run (Weinstein kick) 9:36 (7-7)
B - Lewis 6 yd pass from Bower (Villa kick) 5:15 (14-7)
C - Winborn 10 yd pass from McClellan (Weinstein kick) 8:29 (14-14)
C - Winborn 2 yd run (Weinstein kick) 3:02 (21-14)
B - D.Miller 13 yd pass from Bower (Villa kick) 1:17 (21-21)
C - Winborn 40 yd run (Weinstein kick) 12:49 (28-21)
B - Snipes 26 yd pass from Bower (Villa kick) 10:04 (28-28)
C - Carpenter 38 yd pass from McClellan (Weinstein kick) 8:51 (35-28)
B - Frieson 14 yd run (Villa kick) 0:59 (35-35)
B - Frieson 8 yd run (Villa kick) (42-35)
C - Winborn 4 yd run (Weinstein kick) (42-42)
C - FG Weinstein 37 yds (42-45)
B - Damron 5 yd pass from Bower (48-45)
First Downs: Bakersfield 27 (11 rush, 14 pass, 2 penalty), Canyons 27 (12 rush, 13 pass, 2 penalty)
Rushes-Yds: Bakersfield 38-161, Canyons 50-219
Passing Yds: Bakersfield 363, Canyons 220
Comp-Att-Int: Bakersfield 24-42-0, Canyons 18-25-0
Return Yds: Bakersfield 123, Canyons 153
Sacks-Yds: Bakersfield 3-28, Canyons 1-11
Fumbles-Lost: Bakersfield 1-0, Canyons 3-1
Penalties-Yds: Bakersfield 8-83, Canyons 10-70
Time of Possession: Bakersfield 29:45, Canyons 30:15
Rushing: Bakersfield 23-Frieson 21-82, 44-Estill 12-67, 15-Bower 4-8, 31-Jackson 1-4;
Canyons 10-Winborn 22-178, 29-Reynolds 9-26, 3-Kyle 4-16, 7-McClellan 15-(-1)
Passing: Bakersfield 15-Bower 24-42-0-363, 5 TDs; Canyons 7-McClellan 18-25-0-220, 2 TDs
Receiving: Bakersfield 4-Banks 10-105, 7-D.Miller 6-95, 5-Snipes 4-93, 84-Damron 2-38, 26-G.Williams 1-26, 87-Lewis 1-6; Canyons 9-Carpenter 10-130, 10-Winborn 2-36, 1-Augustus 2-33, 88-McIntyre 1-11, 5-Austin 1-4, 83-N.Jones 1-4, 29-Reynolds 1-2
Fumble Rec-Ret Yds: Bakersfield 55-Smith 1-0
Sacks-Yds: Bakersfield 45-Mackey 1-14, 90-King 1-9, 77-Calvin 1-5; Canyons 2-Thomas 1-11
Punters: Bakersfield 16-Mahan 5-33.6 avg; Canyons 30-Shigley 5-43.2 avg
Kick Returns: Bakersfield 26-G.Williams 3-45, 4-Banks 1-21, 8-J.Williams 1-15, 81-Rosales 1-5; Canyons 29-Reynolds 3-75, 9-Carpenter 3-54
Punt Returns: Bakersfield 4-Banks 2-37; Canyons 9-Carpenter 1-15, 4-Roby 1-6, 15-Masline 1-3
Missed FG: Bakersfield 89-Villa 42 yds (wide left)
Notes: Bakersfield entered 11-0, #1 seed in South and ranked #2 in the nation (JC Grid-Wire). Canyons entered 9-2, #4 seed in South and #9 in the nation. Att-10,078. And what a game it was!!! Bakersfield won the teams' first meeting two weeks ago, 45-41, in regulation time. COC lined up to go for a 2-point conversion after the TD in the 1st OT but had 12 men on the field; after the penalty Weinstein came on and kicked the single point sending the game to a 2nd OT.