Bakersfield College's football team relished a second chance when it traveled to Ventura College for the Beach Bowl last Saturday.
The Renegades get another second chance tonight, but it figures to be a much tougher challenge.
BC (9-2) travels to Walnut, near Pomona, to face Mount San Antonio College (11-0) for the Southern California community college football championship and a berth into the state title game one week later. The BC-Mount SAC winner will host that game.
"We're playing well. Our players are excited," BC coach Jeff Chudy said.
Mount SAC handed BC a 34-14 loss on Sept. 8, the second week of the season. BC's other loss came two weeks later in a four overtimes at Ventura.
The Renegades obliterated Ventura 48-8 in Saturday night's rematch to qualify for tonight's game.
The challenge for BC is trying to find a way to beat Mount SAC, which has been the most consistent football program in the state for several years. The Mounties are the five-time defending Southern California champion with two state championships and a 15-3 postseason record in that span.
All three of those postseason losses have been in state title games. And three of those postseason wins ended the Renegades’ seasons, in 2007, 2009 and 2010.
And Mount SAC has a win over the Renegades this year in the regular season, 34-14 on Sept. 8, a game the Mounties dominated.
BC took a quick 7-0 lead in that game on a 72-yard interception return by Mercy Maston, and the Renegades had a chance to add more when it reached the Mount SAC 2 later in the first quarter. But the Mounties held, then drove 99 yards for the game-tying TD and controlled the game after that.
“That kind of sealed our fate,” Chudy said of the failure to score from the 2. “We struggled, and they were a big reason why we struggled.
“I thought we did a good job against their passing game but we were horrible against the run and we did not tackle well. We had some second-game jitters in trying to get lined up.”
Mount SAC quarterback Nick Montana, the son of NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana, has thrown for 2,537 yards and 21 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. Three of the interceptions came against BC, including Maston’s for the TD. And Montana threw for a season-low 95 yards that game.
But the Mounties ran for 310 yards that night compared to BC’s 64 net rushing yards. Now, nine weeks later, the Renegades are a far better team, Chudy said.
“We’ve made drastic improvements offensively,” Chudy said. “We’re playing faster on the offensive line. We’re playing faster on the edges. We’re a better team. It’s not even close.”
BC’s 1-2 rushing punch of Jalen Sykes (1,169 yards, nine TDs) and Curtis McGregor (769, six TDs) was dominant against Ventura, combining for 308 yards and five touchdowns. They had only 82 yards and zero scores in the first game vs. Mount SAC.
BC’s Brian Burrell has thrown for 2,208 yards, only the fourth quarterback in school history to top 2,000 passing yards in a season. He only threw for 115 yards in last week’s game against Ventura because the ground game was so effective.
Chudy said the Renegades hit their stride in the Nov. 3 game vs. Allan Hancock, when they had touchdowns on all eight possessions.
“We’re practicing better,” he said. “We’re hitting on all cylinders. We’ve had really good Wednesday-Thursday practices the last couple of weeks, and we had two real good ones last week before the Ventura game.”
Mount SAC survived a scare last Saturday when Montana completed a 44-yard touchdown pass to Dontae Ingraham with 31 seconds left to pull out a 12-7 win in a game featuring heavy rain and quagmire field conditions.
“The score on Saturday had a lot to do with the playing conditions,” Chudy said of the Mount SAC win. “Mount SAC defensively is very talented.”
In comparing this year’s Mounties team to the ones that beat BC in previous playoff games, Chudy said, “They are very similar. All those teams have been very physical and extremely talented. You can say they have good players, but their coaches still have to get them lined up and they do multiple things with their personnel.”
The BC defensive line has also shown nice improvement as the season has progressed. Chudy mentioned defensive ends Keylon Hollis and Ozzie Sombo, tackle Clinton Carter and linebackers John Oglesby and Grant Campbell have led the way.
“We’re playing fast with a lot of effort, which is something we’re going to need in this game,” Chudy said.