Led by another dominating offensive performance and six defensive takeaways, No. 11 College of the Canyons steamrolled No. 10 Bakersfield College 44-28 in its regular season finale at Cougar Stadium on Saturday night.
Despite an offensive output of 580 total yards, Canyons (8-2, 4-1) was forced to play catch up after Bakersfield (7-3, 3-2) jumped out to an early 14-0 first quarter advantage.
The Renegades wasted no time jumping on the Cougars as quarterback Brandon Jones found Cameron Roberson over the middle for a 48-yard touchdown toss to give Bakersfield a 7-0 lead just 1:43 into the game.
Bakersfield extended its lead when Jakell Tomlin returned a Canyons punt 74 yards for another big play that put the Renegades ahead 14-0 in the early going.
Canyons answered with a long 14-play, 58-yard drive but could not find the end zone. Instead, COC got on the board when Ryan Sinclair hit a 31-yard field goal to gain some momentum at 14-3.
The COC defense got a big boost on the first play of the ensuing possession when sophomore Noel Iwuchukwu intercepted a tipped pass, giving quarterback Andrew Brito and the offensive unit excellent field position as the Cougars attempted to work their way back into the game.
Brito did not waste the opportunity, as the freshman signal caller continued his strong season by scoring the Cougars' first touchdown of the night on a two-yard run that continued the wild first quarter at 14-10.
Canyons forced its second turnover on the next possession when defensive back Shaddrick Lowry Jr. forced the ball free from Bakersfield running back Elisha Ortiz. Brennan Williams recovered the fumble for Canyons and the Cougar offense trotted back onto the field.
Once again, Brito took advantage of the turnover, finding sophomore RB Marlow on a 40-yard pass completion which set up a seven-yard screen pass to Desean Holmes for the touchdown and Canyons took its first lead at 17-14 early in the second quarter.
Bakersfield came right back with yet another big play as Jones again found Tomlin over the middle and it was off to the races on a 58-yard touchdown that gave the Renegades the lead back at 21-17.
On the ensuing possession Canyons put together some big plays of its own.
Brito lobbed a pass to Holmes who made an impressive sideline catch that was good for 42 yards. Later on the drive it was Brito finding Brandon Pierce who broke free for a 33-yard score, and COC was back in charge at 24-21 after the PAT from Sinclair.
Inspired by the frenzied pace of the game, COC's defense continued to create turnovers. This time it was sophomore linebacker Austin Davenport picking off Jones to set Canyons up inside the Bakersfield 20-yard line.
As they did time and time again, the Cougars took advantage of the Bakersfield miscue with Brito finding sophomore running back Jalen Logan for a 15-yard completion. Logan then cashed in on a two-yard scoring run that pushed the lead to 31-21.
Canyons scored once more before halftime as Brito again found Holmes on a big completion, this time on a 44-yard pass. Brito then completed a 23-yard pass to Jarrin Pierce which put the Cougars in field goal range.
Sinclair, who was flawless on the night, connected on a 19-yard field goal that gave COC a 34-21 lead heading into halftime.
Canyons continued to move the ball at will on its opening possession of the third quarter, this time driving 56 yards in 16 plays to set up Sinclair for a 25-yard field goal that started to create some distance at 37-21.
COC later forced its third turnover of the night, this time with defensive lineman Chris Faingaa recovering the ball in Bakersfield territory.
That turnover provided the opportunity needed for Brandon Pierce to score his second touchdown of the night, this time on a 39-yard rush that put the Cougars ahead comfortably at 44-21.
Bakersfield scored once more before the night was over, when Taber Nylander picked off COC quarterback Darryn Blackshere and returned it 22 yards to the house to give the Renegades some hope. However, the outcome had already been decided as Canyons would hold on for an eventual 44-28 final.
Brito finished the regular season with another impressive performance going 25-of-41 for 391 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception on the night. He also rushed for 24 yards and a touchdown.
Holmes also turned in another noteworthy performance with five catches for 106 yards and a touchdown.
Brandon Pierce did it all for the COC offense, leading the running game with 62 yards and a touchdown on seven carries, and adding two catches for 43 yards and a touchdown.
Lowry led the Cougar defense with seven tackles and a forced fumble, while Iwuchukwu was a force on the defensive line with six tackles including two tackles-for-loss, and an interception.
Canyons finishes the regular season second in the SCFA National Division, Northern League behind conference champion Ventura College (8-2, 5-0).
Stay up to date on all this season's action by following the College of the Canyons Athletic department on social media at @COCathletics on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.
— Photo and story by Tim Strong/COC Sports Information