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Aggressive Renegade defense vexes Long Beach in 28-14 win

The Bakersfield College Renegades got just 185 passing yards from three different quarterbacks, one of whom threw a pick-six. Peter Delis missed a field goal and an extra point. And returner Jaylan Lawson muffed a punt to let Long Beach City College back into the game late.

But the Renegades' defense made it all OK.

One week after a breakout performance at Ventura, the Renegades got the better of the Vikings to the tune of four turnovers, all of which came in the second half. BC's offense struggled to put the game away, but Lawson atoned for his error with a 93-yard defensive touchdown to seal the victory.

"Tonight was one of those where we continued to preach takeaways and taking care of the ball on offense," BC coach R. Todd Littlejohn said. "And you see, those guys start to excite and energize the entire team."

The other standout for the Renegades was Antonio Robinson. Entering Saturday, despite being BC's primary runner for four games, Robinson had never rushed for more than 71 yards or 3.7 yards per carry. Against Long Beach, he had 24 carries for 117 yards and a touchdown for a 4.9 average. 

"He just played with some passion," Littlejohn said. "I told him, you gotta be able to run the ball downhill... run like he's capable of running."

BC improved to 1-2 in conference, but just 2-6 overall after forfeiting three previous non-conference games due to an administrative error. Long Beach is also 1-2 in conference and now 3-5 overall.

Neither team played like a conference contender early. BC had some good luck when a bad snap stopped Long Beach's momentum, then on its own drive when the Vikings were called for roughing the kicker. Both stop-and-start drives ended in missed field goals.

On the last play of the first quarter, Littlejohn replaced starting quarterback Dexter Frampton with backup Richard Lara. But on his second drive, Lara mistimed a slant route and was intercepted by De'Jon VanHook, who returned the pass 33 yards for an easy Vikings touchdown. Littlejohn then sent in Garrett Castro (3-of-8, 60 yards), who got three drives into Long Beach territory, but two ended in punts and a third in a turnover on downs. Frampton returned for the second half.

The coach described his reasoning as follows: "They're going to be evaluated every single time. The guy who's playing the best is going to play."

Trailing 7-0, the Renegades caught a big break when Blaze McKibbin, one of two quarterbacks the Vikings rotated, fumbled. It took just four plays for Frampton to find Isaac Jernagin for a 6-yard touchdown. Delis's extra point hit the upright.

Long Beach reached BC territory on the next drive when Mario Martinez was flagged for continuing to play after losing his helmet. But McKibbin was intercepted off a deflection by Jalen Smith for the linebacker's first pick of the year.

Speedster Jaylen Blizzard, who has struggled to get involved in the Renegades' passing game, made his mark when he caught a slant from Frampton, split two defenders, and sprinted the rest of the way for a go-ahead touchdown. BC initially missed the conversion, but a penalty (one of 16 Long Beach committed on the night, including five for unsportsmanlike conduct) gave them a second chance, and Frampton found Jayden Smith for two. The Renegades were starting to assert their presence.

"Through this crazy week that we've had, I knew that they had it in them," Littlejohn said. "We had a great week of practice — for us to not show it today was going to be disappointing."

The Vikings committed a turnover on their third consecutive drive, this time a fumble by Elijah Davis, but BC had to punt again from deep in Long Beach territory.

As time ticked down in the fourth quarter, the Vikings racked up the punts — they totaled seven on the day — as Derrach West repeatedly underthrew receivers who had space downfield. On one punt, the Vikings committed kick catch interference, setting up BC at Long Beach's 40. Three plays later, Robinson found the end zone on a slippery 22-yard touchdown run to make it 21-7.

Trailing by 14 with just under six minutes remaining, the Vikings decided to punt again. They were rewarded for this decision when Lawson fumbled the return and Zechariah Dolphin ran for a 29-yard score on the next play. BC reached Long Beach's 27 on its ensuing drive, but rather than send out Delis for a 44-yard field goal, the Renegades went for it and lost two yards with Robinson. Suddenly the Vikings had a chance to force overtime.

West, who ran for 101 yards, got 41 here on a scramble, weaving across the field before Renegade defensive stalwart Brock Mather tripped him up at the 24. It was a potentially touchdown-saving tackle that loomed large when West was intercepted by Lawson for a defensive touchdown three plays later.

Long Beach will try to rebound at home against Allan Hancock next Saturday. BC will host East Los Angeles in its final home game of the year.

Reporter Henry Greenstein can be reached at 661-395-7374. Follow him on Twitter: @HenryGreenstein.

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