It's one tough challenge after another for the Bakersfield College football team in the early-going of the 2013 season.
One week after kicking off the new season by going on the road and beating a solid Santa Ana College squad, BC will host one of the state's perennial powers in Mount San Antonio College tonight at 7 p.m.
Despite playing in different conferences, BC and Mt. SAC have quite a rivalry going. One that was amped up a notch last year, when the Renegades were beaten, 34-14, by the Mounties during the regular season but then bounced back to take down Mt. SAC, 30-21, in the Southern California Championship Game.
The results of that contest plus all of BC's other victories last year were later nullified due to rules violations.
Since 2006, Mt. SAC has appeared in five state championship games, winning two of them. Equally as impressive, the Mounties have gone 80-10 overall in the past seven years.
BC coach Jeff Chudy is well aware of all the success Mt. SAC has achieved in recent years and knows what a dangerous threat it poses to the Renegades' chances of beginning the season 2-0. Including the forfeit victory last year, Mt. SAC has posted seven straight wins against BC, and leads the all-time series 7-2.
"They're a quality football team," Chudy said. "They've proven that over the last five, six years. So we have our work cut-out for us. We have to play better than what we played against Santa Ana. We have to work our tails off to kind of swing field position and just grind it out. It's going to be a challenge for us. It's definitely going to be a four-quarter game."
While BC was able to hold off Santa Ana last week, the Mounties, who came into the season No. 1 in the Californian Community College Football Coaches Association state rankings, lost their season-opener, 44-20, to Saddleback College. That loss dropped them to No. 12 in the state rankings.
Meanwhile, despite its win, BC fell a spot this week from No. 4 to No. 5.
Mt. SAC committed seven turnovers (six interceptions and one fumble) in losing to Saddleback. Chudy believes the Mounties will be on a mission this week to put that sloppy performance behind them.
"They're very well-coached and they have talented players," Chudy said. "I don't think last week's game is indicative of what type of team they are. They normally don't turn the ball over like that."
The Mounties are led by sophomore wide receiver/kick and punt returner Kaelin Clay. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound speedster out of Long Beach Poly was named this year to the College Football America Preseason All-Junior College Team
Clay had four catches for 144 yards, including a 96-yard touchdown and also returned a punt 75 yards for a TD against Saddleback.
Last year, he finished with 38 receptions for 659 yards and 8 touchdowns.
"He's a really exciting player," Chudy said. "He makes a lot mischief out there."
Clay will be one of the main focal points of a BC defense that played well against Santa Ana. The Renegades limited the Dons to just three field goals.
Offensively, BC ran the ball effectively in its opener. Preston Hodges had 116 yards on 21 carries including a 50-yard touchdown run late in the game to seal the victory. The Renegades passing attack struggled, though, with freshman quarterback Darrick Martin going just 8-of-18 passing for 108 yards and one TD. Santa Ana's offense outgained BC 351 to 277.
"I thought we played pretty good defensively last week except we missed some tackles here and there," Chudy said. "We have to tackle better. We have to get off the field quick as we can and get our offense on the field and hopefully we can squeeze out some first downs and score a few points."
Chudy said the key for the Renegades' defense this week will be its tackling and ability to creating turnovers. On offense the focus is on blocking, minimizing penalties and protecting the ball.
For the most part, Chudy said he is pleased with his team's opening-week effort, but believes it will take a good all-around performance in all facets of the game for the Renegades to beat a team as good as Mount SAC.
"This is going to be good challenge for our guys," he said. They're going to be one of the better teams we play all year if not the best team we play all year. We have to play, with-out a doubt, lights-out football."