By Jesse Muñoz/COC Sports Information Director
No. 1 College of the Canyons completed a perfect 10-0 regular season and claimed its first conference championship in five years with a rousing 42-30 comeback victory over longtime conference rival No. 18 Bakersfield College on Saturday night at Cougar Stadium.
The Cougars trailed 24-14 at halftime behind two costly turnovers but came roaring back in the second half.
Spurred by three third quarter touchdowns and patented defensive performance that limited the Renegades to just 65 yards of offense in the quarter, COC took control of the contest and never looked back, earning the opportunity to celebrate a conference championship on its home field.
The 30 points scored against the Cougars represented a season high. In addition, the Cougars had not trailed at halftime all season. But this team would not be beaten.
After the top-ranked Cougar defense forced the Renegades into a three and out on the opening drive of the game, COC put together an 11-play 65-yard scoring drive the ended with running back Alonzell Henderson plunging into the end zone on a one-yard score. Tanner Brown's PAT made it 7-0 lead with 8:48 to go in the quarter.
Bakersfield responded with a 29-yard field goal to cut into the Cougar lead at 7-3. On the first play of COC's ensuing possession Wyatt Eget was unable to get a handle on the snap which hit the turf and was recovered by the Renegades at the Canyons 27-yard line.
Four plays later Bakersfield found the end zone on 12-yard scoring run by Elisha Ortiz. The PAT made is a 10-7 Renegade lead.
On the first play of the second quarter COC running back Kenny Torrance put the Cougars back ahead at 14-10 with a 10-yard touchdown run of his own. Eget was able to connect with COC wide receiver Leroy Deshazer for completions of 29 and 35 yards on the drive, to set up the scoring opportunity.
Later in the quarter Bakersfield was able to capitalize on another costly turnover when Eget collided with one of his teammates and lost control of the ball at the Canyons 29-yard line.
Playing with the short field, Bakersfield's Ortiz took a 24-yard run into the end zone to continue the seesaw scoring at 17-14 in favor of the Renegades.
Bakersfield added another more points on a touchdown pass from Jacob Irby to Ortiz that finalized the first half scoring and made it a 24-14 ballgame.
Canyons opened the second half in blazing fashion with Eget completing his first pass to Deshazor for an eight-yard pickup, then coming back to Brandon Pierce on second down for a 13-yard reception that had an additional 15 yards tacked on due to a Bakersfield personal foul penalty. Eget then looked to Jarrin Pierce for 14 yards more, before running back Cayden Dunn ended the drive, and tilted the momentum, with a 15-yard touchdown scamper.
The two teams traded possessions with neither gaining much ground until Dunn was able to break loose for back-to-back runs of 19 and 46-yards, the second of which found the goal line to but Canyons back on top 28-24 after a Brown PAT.
Five minutes later Eget orchestrated a 62-yard scoring drive that ended with Leroy Deshazor celebrating a 31-yard touchdown pass.
Deshazor finished the game with six catches for 154 yards and the second half touchdown.
With COC now leading 35-24 and the crowd fully behind the hometown team, the Cougars continued to impress.
After the Renegades recovered another COC fumble, the Canyons defense wasted little time in returning the ball to Eget and company. On second and nine, COC linebacker Earl English collided with Ortiz in the hole and stripped the ball away to halt any thoughts BC might have had about retaking the lead.
Canyons made the most of the opportunity with Eget finding Deshazor yet again, this time on a 34-yard pitch-and-catch that put COC at the one-yard line. On the next play KJ Latu powered into the end zone to put the score at 42-24.
Bakersfield managed a late touchdown with 3:12 to go in the game, but by then the contest was already out of hand for the Renegades (6-4, 3-2).
Eget finished the game a proficient 21-of-29 for 289 yards and a touchdown. Dunn was the Cougars' leading rusher with 158 yards on 19 carries, including the two scoring runs.
Tariq Speights led the COC defense with seven tackles, while Aurion Peoples and Tofa Faingaa each checked in with five stops from the defensive line. Khalib Johns and Gio Ramirez both recorded sacks for the Cougars.
As a team, Canyons held Bakersfield to just 126 passing yards and limited the Renegades to a 3-of-12 third down efficiency rate. Jaq Vukobradovich, Raeshawn Roland and Khalid Taylor each recorded multiple pass break ups in the game.
The Cougars also amassed 485 yards of total offense, its third highest mark of the season, behind an offensive line that controlled the game over the final 30 minutes of play. COC rolled up 196 yards on the ground for an average of 5.2 yards per play.
Brown was a perfect 6-of-6 on PATs to improve his streak to 43-of-43 on the season.
Canyons (10-0, 5-0) finishes the regular season unblemished for just the fifth time in program history (2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2018).
The 2018 Southern California Football Association (SCFA) National Division, Northern League championship is the second won under head coach Ted Iacenda, who also led the Cougars to the conference top spot in 2013, his first year at the helm of the program.
The conference title is the Cougars' 12th overall (2018, 2013, 2008, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1975, 1973, 1971) and ninth since COC reinstated its football program in 1998.
The No. 1 state ranked Cougars will now head to the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) Southern California Regional Playoffs.
Canyons will host a familiar opponent in conference foe No. 4 Ventura College (9-1, 4-1), whom the Cougars defeated back on Oct. 27 en route to the conference championship.
A full list of postseason matchups is here.
Ventura finished the 2018 regular season as runner-up in the National Division, Northern League after a streak of four straight conference titles dating back to 2014. The Pirates are competing in the regional playoffs for a third straight season.
Canyons enters the regional playoffs for the first time since 2013. The Cougars also went to postseason playoff games in 2008, 2007, 2005, 2004, 2003 and 2002, highlighted by state and national titles in 2004.
COC has won a state-best 15 games dating back to week seven of the 2017 campaign.
No. 1 Canyons and No. 4 Ventura will kick off at 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17 at Cougar Stadium.
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.