Two plays may very well define how the first half of the season is perceived for the Bakersfield College football team.
Down 17-7 with less than five minutes left, BC scored two touchdowns within 49 seconds and beat El Camino 21-17 on Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.
In a game where the Renegades (4-1) offense could only muster seven points in the first 55 minutes — a 50-yard TD pass from Brandon Jones to Cameron Roberson in the first quarter — it was the special teams that gave BC the boost it needed going into a bye week before National Northern Conference play begins in two weeks.
Jakell Tomlin took a punt return back 87 yards for a touchdown to cut the Warriors’ lead to 17-14 with 4:22 left in the game.
On the ensuing kickoff return, Myshajaun Williams recovered a fumble. Three plays later, Cesar De Leon found Lameshio Hill for a 4-yard touchdown pass for the game-winner.
“What you really see is resiliency in our guys,” BC coach Jeff Chudy said. “We competed, obviously, until the end and we had guys make plays when they had to make plays.”
It was not pretty for the Renegade offense.
BC punter Carson Olivas seemed like the busiest guy on the field with nine punts for an impressive 42.9 average as the Renegades managed just 285 total yards of offense.
Tomlin, who had three catches for 43 yards, was electric on the punt return at the most opportune time for the Renegades.
“It’s just big. It puts energy into the whole team,” Tomlin said. “It gets everybody hyped for the next play.”
It was a much-needed boost knowing that there was two potential touchdowns left off the board for BC in the first half.
Louis Early intercepted a pass in the second quarter and returned it 59 yards for a touchdown, but it was called back on an unsportsmanlike penalty against BC.
Two series later, BC defensive lineman Nigel Brooks popped the ball loose in the back field and the Renegades recovered the ball at the El Camino 2-yard line.
But BC came away empty after a chop block was called on a touchdown run by Elisha Ortiz and Nathan De Jager’s 37-yard field goal attempt sailed wide-left.
“We obviously just imploded on those two penalties and those two touchdowns we took off the board,” Chudy said.
El Camino, which averaged 58 points a game in the first four weeks, scored its first points on Saturday as time expired in the first half on a 44-yard field goal by Kevin Boermeester.
“That’s all credit to our defense. I continue to see it week in and week out,” De Leon said. “They hold teams that average over 50 points a game to 17. They hold guys and cause turnovers. Our defense is just a special group.”
El Camino came out firing in the second half, scoring twice on run plays in the third quarter to take a 17-7 lead.
But another opportunistic performance by the BC defense with four turnovers, including three fumble recoveries, kept the Renegades in striking distance until a big play unfolded.
“It was a great team effort for our guys to come back after shooting ourselves in the foot,” Chudy said. “We came back and stuck together. That’s what we are hoping for.”
The BC defense has 11 takeaways in the last three games.
In what could have been a tough two-week stretch during the bye week heading into homecoming and a conference opener on Oct. 14 against Moorpark with another close loss like the 28-26 heartbreaker to No. 3 Riverside at home two weeks ago.
Instead, it turned to moments like De Leon joking after the win about connecting with a current teammate on a game-winning score that was a high school rival.
“That guy caused havoc for me all the time in high school,” said De Leon, a former Centennial quarterback of Hill, a standout at Bakersfield High. “For him to come in and get an opportunity to get him the ball. He was wide open. Thank God he made the catch.”
Brandon Jones led BC with 120 yards passing while De Leon had 50 yards through the air.
Olivas also threw a pass in the second half on a fake punt, connecting on a 22-yard pass to Edar Tavera.
El Camino had 549 yards of offense, but the BC defense, led by nine tackles from Desmond Ramseur and another eight for Malik Chatman, held the Warriors to 41 points under their season average.
“It’s just a good team win,” Chudy said.