Six Bakersfield players sat on the back of the bench with their eyes pointed straight down at the turf. Two more were just a few feet away at the end of the sideline box on a knee looking anywhere but at the action on the field at Ventura College’s Sportsplex.
Stevan Thornton patrolled the sideline with words of encouragement trying to cheer them up.
“You never know what can happen,” he told them. “Don’t go around looking sad.”
But it didn’t change anything.
At that point, with a few minutes left in the fourth quarter, it didn’t matter that the Renegades had fought back and erased an early 17-0 deficit. It didn’t matter that the offense would go on to score a touchdown with six seconds left courtesy of Cameron Roberson. The game was out of reach.
All that mattered was the impending loss to Ventura and with it the loss of a potential conference title.
“We didn't get it done,” BC head coach Jeff Chudy said. “It’s a disappointment for us, for our football team. I wish we had put our best foot forward and played a complete game but we didn’t.”
With a 48-38 win over state-ranked No. 6 Bakersfield on Saturday, the No. 7 Ventura Pirates crushed BC’s hopes at the National Northern Conference crown and took it for themselves. Ventura — now 7-2 overall and 4-0 in the conference — clinched the title and punctuated the win with a 27-yard fake field goal pass for a score with 2:29 left to take a 48-31 lead.
Bakersfield dropped just its second game all season and fell to 7-2, 3-1. BC’s only other loss was to No. 2 Riverside on Sept. 16 by two points.
In a matchup that pitted the top scoring and passing defense against one of the top passing offenses in California, the offense won. BC previously hadn’t given up more than 28 points in a game this year.
“Defensively, I never would have dreamed in my wildest dreams we’d give up 48 points,” Chudy said. “Thirty-eight points should have been enough to get it done.”
“We have to finish,” said BC starting quarterback Brandon Jones, who played for Ventura two years ago. “That comes down to (the offense). We can’t only put 38 points on the board. If we have to put up 60, we have to do it. And our defense, they're great. They've been shutting everyone down this year. We couldn't expect them to do it every week.”
Ventura quarterback Jake Constantine gouged BC for 376 yards and a touchdown passing and 72 yards rushing himself. The Renegades had given up 116.4 yards and 12.1 points per game coming in.
When Bakersfield received the kickoff to start the second half and drove the length of the field it erased what had been an ugly start to the game. The 17-0 score generated from Ventura’s first three drives — fewer than 20 minutes into the game — was wiped away thanks to a 29-yard pass from Jones to Cameron Roberson and a LaMeshio Hill shuffle-pass reception from 5 yards out.
Even when Ventura drove 83 yards on the next possession for a score, BC hit right back off a Roberson kickoff return for a touchdown.
But the chunk plays at crucial times by the Pirates were too much. Constantine connected on two 37-yard passes down each sideline in a row and the Pirates took a 31-24 lead in the third.
A 23-yard passing play set up a Ventura field goal for the 34-24 lead. Constantine found holes on the middle of the field and up the seam. When receivers weren’t open, he ran for 20 or more yards at a time.
Ventura was 9-for-17 on third down.
“They made some big plays and we couldn’t get off the field on third down,” Chudy said.
Though BC mustered up a touchdown drive with six minutes left, the Pirates finally finished the Renegades off. Thomas Duckett picked up a touchdown run with 3:10 to go that pushed the lead to 10. BC turned the ball over on downs and the Pirates converted on the fake field goal.
The loss was a large blow for BC’s state playoff hopes.
“We’re gonna soak in this loss first,” Chudy said. “I haven't really thought about it.”