Wide receiver Cameron Roberson was emphatic in his praise for the Bakersfield College defense after a 48-0 win over Santa Monica on Oct. 28.
“Week in and week out, they have our back,” Roberson said. “There are some games where we struggle and (the offense) can’t put a drive together and they have our back. They force turnovers and they shut teams out.”
But he didn’t stop there.
“I think we have the — I know, actually — we have the best defense in the state and I’m so proud of those guys,” Roberson finished.
Roberson is correct in terms of points allowed and passing yards allowed per game. BC’s 12.1 points and 116.4 passing yards given up are tops in among California junior colleges. But the Ventura team the Renegades are about to face scores the fourth-most points per game (43.9) in the state , throw for the second-most yards per game (313.9) and has thrown the most touchdown passes (29).
It’ll be a strength-against-strength matchup as state-ranked No. 6 Bakersfield (7-1, 3-0 National Northern) heads to state-ranked No. 7 Ventura (6-2, 3-0) at 6 p.m. Saturday in hopes of keeping its conference title and state playoff aspirations alive.
“It’ll be a big challenge for us, but our guys have responded well all year and we’ve seen similar offenses so it’s gonna be a healthy competition on Saturday,” Bakersfield College head coach Jeff Chudy said. “We’re gonna have to rise to the occasion and step up to the plate.”
The Ventura Pirates’ offense is led by quarterback Jake Constantine, who transferred from Boise State (backup quarterback Ricky Town is a USC and Arkansas transfer, who was considered the No. 1 quarterback recruit at one point in his high school career). Constantine has completed 68.2 percent of his 220 passing attempts, for 23 scores and six interceptions.
His favorite target is receiver Kendric Mallory, who has a state-high 57 catches for 641 yards and eight touchdowns. Four different players on the team have at least three touchdown receptions.
Constantine is mobile in the pocket, able to avoid the pass rush and extend plays. He’s only run for nine total yards on the season so he doesn’t scramble much. He stays behind the line of scrimmage and buys time until a receiver breaks open.
“That’ll be a big part of the game,” Chudy said. “It’s been a big part of their success so we’re gonna have to do a great job of containing his mobility.”
It starts with BC’s front four generating pressure and keeping Constantine in the pocket. BC rotates about seven players, Chudy said, to keep them fresh throughout the game. Tyrrel Eddington leads the way with three sacks on the year.
It ends with the defensive backs — often up on the line of scrimmage for press coverage — keeping coverage throughout a potentially lengthy play. Ernest Harris has three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Bobby Robinson has two interceptions returned for touchdowns and six pass breakups.
The defense’s biggest asset is its speed, Robinson said.
What will make or break the game for BC’s defense could be its performance on third down. Ventura’s offense has converted on a state-high 48 percent of its third-down attempts.
“What’s critical for our success is our ability to get off the field on third down,” Chudy said.
When BC faced El Camino — which has scored more points and thrown for more yards per game than Ventura — on Sept. 30, the Renegades edged out a 21-17 win at home.
With two games left in the regular season, the result of this one will likely determine the conference champion and representative in the state playoffs.
“In order for us to be a conference champion, we got to take care of business Saturday,” Chudy said. “So we’ve had a good season to date, but we’ve got a lot of unfinished business to do.”