Bakersfield College’s mission at the start of each year is to be in state playoff and conference championship contention in the final few weeks of the season. In that respect, the 2017 campaign has been a success.
But it's what's happened once the Renegades were in that position — two straight losses to end the regular season — that has masked the season in recent disappointment.
“It’s not where we wanted to be,” running back Elisha Ortiz said.
With one final game left in the season, BC is hoping to get back to its winnings ways, end the year on a high note and send the sophomores off the way the players and coaches think they deserve. State-ranked No. 15 Bakersfield College (7-3, 3-2 National Northern) heads to No. 13 Long Beach (7-3, 4-1 National Central) for the Patriotic Bowl on Saturday at 4 p.m.
“We had too many mistakes at the end, so now we’re playing a good Long Beach team in a bowl game,” BC head coach Jeff Chudy said. “It’s an honor to play in a bowl game. ... We’re gonna take every advantage of it that we can and hopefully end this thing on a really positive note.”
Through the first eight games of the season, BC had one of the best defenses in the state and the best when it came to points and passing yards allowed per game.
Then against Ventura for the conference championship it gave up the most points it has all season (48) and a week later against Canyons the second-most points (38) to end the regular season.
“I’m just looking forward to this bowl game,” defensive lineman Tyrrel Eddington said after the Ventura game. “Hoping for the best for my team. Hopefully we can wake back up and actually dial it in.”
The offense shifted from good enough to a huge liability, with six turnovers against Canyons last week.
The constants were the special teams — which returned a punt and kickoff for a touchdown in the final two games and changed field position off the leg of punter Carson Olivas — and, according to Chudy, how the team competed.
“Our ability to stay together as a group and hang in there, we’ve had some really crazy, tough games,” Chudy said. “It’s been a good thing for us to be in close games and we stuck together competed really well.”
The long season wore on the team, starting quarterback Brandon Jones said. He and the other leaders on the team didn’t hold each other to a high enough standard, he said, and then couldn’t get it done in the final two games.
Against a Long Beach team with a potent passing attack — similar to BC’s last two opponents — the Renegades have a shot not at redemption but reconciliation.
Chudy made part of the final week of practice fun with light-hearted games. Players performed skits in front of the team and BC picked four linemen to catch balls off the football-launching JUGS machine. It was memorable for the departing players, Jones said.
For the sophomores, it’s their last chance to showcase their talents to four-year schools. It’s also the last chance for some to represent the city of Bakersfield on the football field.
“It’s definitely emotional,” said Jones, who played one year at Ventura before transferring to San Diego State and then to BC. “When I came back home, that was what I wanted to do: play for my hometown team that I grew up watching.
“We have to go out on a win now. That’s the biggest thing.”