That question was answered definitively as Warrior QB Matt Simms threw for 436 yards and 3 TDs against a confused and scrambling Gades secondary on their way to a convincing 40-24 victory in Torrance.
Bakersfield took the lead early with a field goal, but by the end of the first quarter Warrior kicker Steven Locked knotted the game at 3-3. It appeared to be a typical Elco/Renegades slugfest, then the Simms to Kenbrell Thompkins show started. Before long, the Renegades must have stared deeply behind the face mask of #2 to make sure it wasn't Simms father Phil, the New York Giant legend, that was really picking them a apart.
Bakersfield receiver Vince Van Horn was wide open on a hitch and go, but Logan Kilgore overthrew him by a couple of yards. The young BC QB, who only threw 10 passes in high school, has missed many an open receiver long during the young season. The Warriors defense seemed to know exactly what was coming at them, and when. They had several blitzes that went right into the hole where the play was going, and stopped the solid running game that BC possesses. Without stud RB Andre Smith in the Renegades backfield, BC didn't have the breakaway speed needed to keep Elco off balance.
Simms had good protection during the game, getting off quick sideline passes as he stepped up into the pocket like an old pro. A deep pass to Tompkins into the red zone culminated in a swing pass to Alex Gaines giving Elco a 10-3 lead. The Gades were stymied on offense again, and Simms continued to pick apart the secondary. The offensive line of Elco did a good job against a very good BC defensive line, but ultimately it was the inability of Gades linebackers to stay with receivers and a secondary playing to soft that spelled their doom. Locked ended up kicking another field goal of 32 yards, and the Warriors had a 10 point lead at 13-3.
After a nice return by Renegades receiver Rishard Matthews past midfield, the Warriors defense shut them down forcing them to punt, and Simms wasted no time driving them down the field, A quick slant to Thompkins and a deep out to Keenan Smith and the Warriors were knocking on the door once more. The Renegades had at least 3 opportunities to turn momentum in this game with interceptions, but all three were dropped by Gade defenders. Locked hit on another field goal and going into the half, Elco had a 16-3 lead. The statistics reflected the score, as BC was outgained by about 170 yards by halftime. Thompkins alone had 6 catches for 125 yards.
Simms came out chucking again to start the half, hitting FB Tony Sekona in the seam who brought it all the way down inside the BC 5 yard line. Thompkins caught another Simms bullet and the Warriors had the game firmly in hand 23-3.
Kilgore was able to hit Van Horn at the one yard line of the Warriors. Van Horne did a good job of keeping one foot in play, and I'm not so sure he did, but the Gades punched it in with a Kilgore sneak making it 23-10 halfway through the 3rd quarter.
But the Renegades promptly kicked the ball out of bounds, giving Simms and company good field position at the 40. Simms again showed surgeon like passing with a screen to Ken Ashley followed by another laser to TE Jamize Olawale to the Gade 6 yard line. Fullback Charles Wolfgram finished the drive with a catch in the endzone, and the Gades appeared to be done behind 30-10 with about 6 minutes to go in the third. Locked ended up kicking another field goal to make it 33-10.
Bakersfield tried to make one last stab, but their bread and butter is ball control. Without Smith in the game, their only real break away threat was Rishard Matthews. But Kilgore once again threw a pass to a wide open Matthews over everyone's head. RB Ben Estill was able to punch another one in for Bakersfield cutting the lead to 33-17. Both teams then traded TDs to end the game at 40-24.
The bright spot for the Gades was that they did not let El Camino do anything on the ground. DLs Maurice Hayes and Tyrone Crawford along with LB Jacob Cross are tough to beat at the line of scrimmage, but the Warrior O line led by massive left tackle Aderious Simmons gave Simms just enough time to thread passes. And thread them he did, ending the game 31 for 44 and connecting with eleven different receivers. The Renegades corners were playing way too soft in this game, and the LBs could not keep up with passes to RBs out of the backfield. It is very rare indeed for a Renegades team, even in down years, to be so dominated in a game.
The Warriors are the real deal and this is as good a team as I have seen head coach John Featherstone field, and that's saying a lot. They are, in my opinion, a notch better than the other elite teams this year. They don't have many weaknesses, and that overall depth will be needed as league begins next week. If I were to bet on who will emerge as the state champions this year, my money would go on them. But, football, especially juco ball, is all about match ups, and they do play in what is probably the toughest conference in the nation. Next week the Gades will try to rebound in a very telling conference opener against Pasadena, while the Warriors open up with Riverside. The hunt for a playoff berth begins.