Bakersfield College’s return unit had been so close.
Both head coach Jeff Chudy and returner Cameron Roberson thought there were several chances where one more block or a broken tackle would have led to a score. But through the first seven games of the year, the Renegades had yet to break any, despite Roberson accounting for three of the team’s five returns for touchdowns a season ago.
“Every week we were getting closer and closer and closer,” Roberson said. “And finally, we just finally we broke one last week and that kind of opened the floodgates.”
Roberson tallied his first punt return for a touchdown in a blowout win over East Los Angeles last week. Against Moorpark at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 3, the floodgates opened in the form of two punt returns for touchdowns by Roberson of 77 and 81 yards. He led the Renegades (6-3, 3-1 National Northern) to a 31-0 win over the Raiders (1-8, 0-4) and their third straight victory.
“He’s just a special guy,” Chudy said. “He carried our team on his back the whole first half. It was the Cam show. He’s a helluva player.”
With a little more than 11 minutes left in the second quarter, Bakersfield lined up in a punt block formation. Everyone except Roberson packed in tight at the line of scrimmage. Moorpark has had issues with its punt protection, Chudy said.
The Moorpark punt carried Roberson, a Garces High School graduate, back to the 23. Three players tried to corner Roberson as he shuffled horizontally. With the help of a block that he stalled for, Roberson split the defenders, running forward on a slight angle to the left. His teammates chipped in with a few blocks along the way, and Roberson outran Raiders punter Stephen Gomez down the left sideline for the touchdown.
The score put BC ahead 7-0.
“I just try to read a hole to hit first and I was just waiting, waiting,” Roberson said. “I saw a little hole open up and I hit it and I was just running as fast as I can.”
BC punted the ball to Moorpark with less than two minutes left in the first half. Three incomplete passes meant the Raiders had to kick it to Roberson again.
Moorpark had kicked the preceding punt (immediately following Roberson’s score) just 25 yards to keep it away from him. But with time running short in the second half, they gave him another chance.
The decision shocked Roberson, he said.
He took the line drive kick right to him at the 19. Because of the short hangtime, none of the coverage team was near when he caught the ball.
The Renegades return man jetted up the middle of the field. Roberson faced the punter, Gomez — listed at 6-foot-1, 250 pounds — head on at about the Moorpark 45. Roberson spun left, avoiding the tackle, embarrassing Gomez, and creating a clear path for the score.
“Nothing surprises me with what that guy does,” Chudy said. “He plays with a ton of passion. He plays extremely hard. And he’s really gifted athletically, so he just took it vertical.”
Roberson’s 158 punt return yards on his two touchdowns in the second quarter was more than the Renegades (97) and Raiders (114) each had total offensive yards in the first half.
He helped BC get out to a 21-0 lead in the first 30 minutes.
Chudy joked with Roberson in the locker room at halftime about how the team usually designs the returns to go to the right, but Roberson cuts them back to the left.
After the game, Roberson sported a sling around his right arm. He initially hurt his shoulder last week, he said, and it hadn’t fully healed. He wanted to play what could be the final football game in Bakersfield of his career. Pain in his shoulder flared up when his arm was pulled back on his last punt return in the second half.
He’ll get X-Rays on Nov. 5 and ice it plenty, Roberson said.
“But no matter what, I’m not missing next week,” Roberson said. “It’s the conference championship. I can’t miss next week.”
No. 17 Bakersfield College 31, Moorpark 0
At Memorial Stadium
MP - 0 0 0 0 - 0
BC - 0 21 3 7 - 31
BC - Roberson 77 punt return (De Jager kick)
BC - Ortiz 5 run (De Jager kick)
BC - Roberson 81 punt return (De Jager kick)
BC - De Jager 37 field goal
BC - Ortiz 5 run (De Jager kick)
RUSHING - BC: Ortiz 24-127, Martin 14-56, Irby 6-16. MP: Tili 12-69, Archibald 8-49, Corso 5-7, Turner 2-7.
PASSING - BC: Irby 6-10-0-69. MP: Postler 4-18-0-35. Corso 4-14-1-32.
RECEIVING - Bakersfield: Ortiz 2-(-3), Maxwell 1-51, Austin 1-12, Rowel 1-5. MP: Boucher 3-37, St. Pierre 2-15, Corso 2-12, Culliar 1-27.
W-L: Bakersfield College (6-3, 3-1 National Northern), Moorpark (1-8, 0-4).