Bakersfield College’s once promising season with state title aspirations ended with three straight losses, including a 37-10 domination by Long Beach in the Patriotic Bowl. At its best, BC was ranked No. 5 in the state in 2017, but closed the year ranked 15th.
The Renegades were one holding call away from an 8-0 start to the season — they started 7-1. Yet in the most important games, they faltered.
Head coach Jeff Chudy still called the year great because the team was in competition for a conference championship and state playoff berth in November.
Here’s a look back at the 2017 campaign with grades for each position group:
BC ran a dual-quarterback system with Brandon Jones and Cesar De Leon until the Sept. 21 game at Cerritos when Jones played the entire game and became the clear favorite. Still, De Leon ended up taking over for Jones mid-game in the final two contests of the year. The two combined for five turnovers and only a 53.6 completion percentage in the Renegades’ last two games. They were constantly under pressure in the pocket and BC’s 165.6 passing yards per game was 56th in the state.
Running backs: B
Freshman starter Elisha Ortiz often looked like BC’s most dynamic player on the field. He was the No. 1 rusher and No. 2 receiver, leading the team with 94.1 yards from scrimmage per game. He scored three touchdowns in a game twice this year. La Meshio Hill and Malik Barkley served as good change-of-pace backup options, all averaging more than 5 yards per carry. But the offensive line struggled to open holes against strong defensive fronts. As the Renegades trailed big in their final three games, they had to throw the ball more than usual.
Wide receivers: B-minus
Cameron Roberson and Jakell Tomlin flashed their abilities to turn short slants into big gains at times. But BC’s passing attack was never much of a downfield threat. It relied on short and screen passes most of the time to make up for the shaky pass protection.
Offensive line: C
The young and inexperienced group got better throughout the season, but the growing pains were obvious. Long Beach blitzed on nearly every down and two or three free rushers came in on Jones or De Leon several plays in a row. BC’s quarterbacks were sacked six times in the game.
Defensive line: B
The Renegades utilized a solid group of about seven players up front, led by sophomore Tyyrel Eddington. His five sacks were the most on the team among defensive linemen. The unit struggled the most at Ventura when quarterback Jake Constantine got plenty of time in the pocket and scrambled for 72 yards. He had only nine yards rushing in the eight games before that. Occasionally, opposing running backs found big holes to run through.
Linebackers Desmond Ramseur and Sale Atuatasi led the Renegades with 73 and 71 tackles, respectively. Malik Chatman was the best blitzing threat with five sacks and 10 tackles for loss. The unit’s flaws appeared when it had to drop into pass coverage — especially late in the year. The linebackers allowed too many completed passes in the middle of the field and missed too many tackles afterward.
BC’s defense and its secondary was its best unit for much of the year. Cornerback Bobby Robinson intercepted a pass and returned it for the game-winning touchdown in the final minutes at Cerritos. The defense bailed the offense out and made several late-game stops. Through the first eight games, no team let up fewer passing yards than BC. But in the final three, that all changed. The Renegades were torched for 1,135 yards through the air and seven touchdowns. In press coverage, the defensive backs were regularly beat along the sideline for deep throws. In Cover-2, quarterbacks found their receivers underneath. As Chudy put it, BC was big played and couldn’t get off the field on third downs.
Special team: A
Special teams was the only area the Renegades continued to outplay its opponents almost every game throughout the season. Punter Carson Olivas’ 41 yards per punt was third in the state and he often flipped the field in BC’s favor. The Renegades averaged almost 24 yards per punt return — third in the state — and took four in for touchdowns. The special teams group helped mask a struggling BC offense for much of the year.
Because of how the last three games turned out, it’s easy to overlook Bakersfield’s success during the rest of the year. It still landed in a bowl game and fought back from a 14-0 deficit in the de facto conference championship game. The Renegades ran into some good teams down the stretch and the disappointment comes from what could have been. The offense never really clicked and the defense eventually couldn’t carry the team anymore.