California JC Football Title Game Preview

California JC Football Title Game Preview

The 2012 California State Junior College Football Championship will be a rematch from a dozen years ago between two of the State's most prolific programs, Bakersfield College and City College of San Francisco. In that championship game of 2000 held in Visalia in front of a record crowd of 6,250, the Rams proved to be too tough in the Red Zone for a BC team that couldn't finish off drives.

Both teams featured defenses that were outstanding. In fact, that may be the year that the Rams finished with a whopping 20 interceptions for the year. This game was no different as they blocked 2 field goal attempts as well as an extra point, and forced three fumbles on their way to a 31-13 victory.

Bakersfield College Football Overview

Are the Renegades looking for revenge in this game? Not really, the last time these two teams matched up most of these players were in 1st or 2nd grade. What the Renegades want is a State Championship, one that they haven't achieved since 1988. If they are able to beat another strong Rams team, it would complete a trifecta of upsets for a team that suddenly gelled halfway through the season. Bakersfield has already beaten the top two rated unbeaten teams from the south in revenge games, Ventura and Mt. SAC, but they are not resting on those two wins.

After losing to both Ventura and Mt. SAC early on, they pretty much had their way with every other opponent with the exception of Cerritos, who put up a solid fight. That momentum carried them throughout the playoffs. Early on the offensive line, and to a lesser degree the defensive line, were not quite in sync, but they have gotten stronger as each game progressed.

Coach Chudy says, "We have great team chemistry. Our guys are having fun practicing and playing together. It is very competitive, but they know when to turn it off." He also agrees that the offensive line has improved drastically.

"The o-line obviously has a lot of moving parts. It takes a tremendous amount of teamwork and trust. Our guys started to put it all together vs. Hancock when we had no punts, we were 8/8 on td drives, and we didn't throw a pass in the second half."

Chudy credits three of his coaches for the improvement.

"Corey Actis has been a great addition. Actis, Ken Chapman, and Ryan Skidmore work well together. They complement each other's coaching styles."

I remember Actis as a great offensive lineman and leader with an outstanding motor playing for the Gades. He took those physical and work ethic skills to Ole Miss and wound up in the starting lineup. Corey was the kind of kid who after leveling the guy over him, would go level another guy, then look for a third. Skidmore was a starter for Fresno State and was a hybrid tight end/receiver. While offensive coordinator Carl Dean has been accused of being too conservative, his results are hard to argue with. Renegade fans are notorious second guessers, and as a fan, I know that fans always think they know best. In actuality, most fans have never even coached Pop Warner. The Gades have been conservative when it is warranted, and more wide open when that is needed.

That is why they are in the final.

The Gades are strong in the talent positions. They have two small bowling ball RBs who are quite effective as a duo in Jalen Sykes and Curtis McGregor. Chudy has been pleased with their play. "Those guys very seldom go down on the first hit, you better arm wrap and run through the tackle or they will still be running...the great thing is they both enjoy each other's success and it's a very friendly competition."

QB Brian Burrell has one cannon of an arm, is savvy in the pocket, and has good mobility. Chudy believes Burrell is the best QB he's had since he's been with the Gades and that goes back to 1992. "I believe he can play in any conference, Pac 12, SEC, Big 12, doesn't matter, his skill set is that great." Add a trio of talented freshman receivers in Marquis Johnson, Chaz Adams, and Brock Martin, along with one of the best receiving tight ends in the State, Mike Dunn, and the Gades have lots of options.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Renegades have a very solid secondary led by Boise State bound DB Mercy Maston. Freshman MLB Grant Campbell leads the team in tackles, and Keylon Hollis, the conference Defensive Player of the Year, is a devastating pass rusher. John Oglesby has been a monster as well on defense. Since their last loss early on against Ventura, they have given up less than 14 points a game.

City College of San Francisco Football Overview

CCSF, of course, is the most successful JC football team in the nation over the last 15 or 20 years. They are 9 time national champs. They have not been as dominating as year's past, yet their lone loss this year was to a very good Butte team. The Norcal conference ended in a three way tie, and CCSF's tougher schedule gave them the nod for yet another state final. The Rams are usually full of D1-level talent and have an excellent coaching staff, a tough combination to beat.

The coaching staff features the incomparable George Rush, and Chudy agrees with that assessment. "San Francisco has set the bar for all programs throughout the state. George has done a phenomenal job of consistently putting out a quality product."

The Rams offense is pretty much the same juggernaut it always has been, averaging over 450 yards a game led by RB Kris Olugbode's 1,636 yards.

The Rams are no slouch in the air either as QB Andrew Spivey has thrown for over 2600 yards. Both players are the leaders on offense according to Coach Rush. One is vocal, the other leads by example.

It is on the defensive side of the ball that the Rams have been a little inconsistent. Don't get me wrong, this is still a solid defense, it is chock full of D-1 talent as is the Offensive Line. And you won't convince Coach Chudy that this team isn't at a par with former Ram teams because he knows they have 17 returners from a State Championship team. The Gades will be hoping the Rams have not solved every issue they've had yet. But don't count on it. The Ram defensive line features two tall bookend defensive ends in LaRyan King and Christorpher Martin. They should be effective in the pass rush, but might be at a disadvantage trying to stop BC's small backs. Tyrone Ward is your typical tough as nails Ram Linebacker and the vocal leader of the D.

DBs Broughan Jantz and Rufus Wolokolie are tough to throw passes over, both being 6'2" inches tall. Perhaps one of the biggest weapons that the Rams possess is Australian born punter Sam Hill, whose punts have given opponents bad field position all year. He has averaged an incredible 45.7 yards per punt.

Hoping for a Classic

This State Final shapes up to be another classic. The game atmosphere will be like no other Championship game since the old Junior Rose Bowls. The record of 6,250 fans for a modern State title game will be doubled. As of Tuesday morning, there have been 8,000 pre-sold tickers already. It would not surprise me to see 15,000 fans, and the game will be played on a grass field that is in great shape due to the mild fall. It could also be the last grass game played at Memorial since new Athletic Director Ryan Beckwith wants to install an artificial surface. Beckwith has been a boon for BC athletics and Chudy appreciates it.

"Ryan has a tremendous amount of energy and is totally dedicated to making BC Athletics a better place for our student- athletes ,  our coaches and our community."

In fact, Beckwith was quite the athlete himself competing in track and football at the University of Georgia. He was so excited to get the job at BC, he gave up a tryout for the Olympics in the Decathlon.

Being surprised that CCSF is in the state final again would be like being surprised the Celtics were in the NBA finals in the early sixties. Year after year Coach Rush puts out some amazingly talented teams, and his connections with D-1 programs gets many kids out. In fact, I have seen 2nd string Ram players go on to the PAC-12. He has turned down opportunities to coach on big time D-1 programs, including USC, because he loves getting underdog kids and transforming them into winners both on and off the field. The NFL has many former Rams. In fact, former Ram and California Bear Middle Linebacker Desmond Bishop, who starts for the Packers, always states that he is from CCSF instead of Cal when introduced on television. When asked about Bakersfield College's 2012 team, Rush is very complimentary.

"I know how well coached this team is, and they play extremely well together. They are physical, relentless, and play as a team." He also remembers that these two teams have the history of the 2000 final. "This will be a really fun game because of the big crowd and the history of these teams."

Coach Rush has been at this for 36 years and still is not quite sure where he is headed. "That's the question of the day. I know I'm closer to the end than the beginning."

But you get the feeling coach isn't going anywhere anytime soon. He loves his players too much, and each class seems to have that special kid. Coach Rush is complemented by offensive coordinator Dan Hayes, who is considered one of the best in the nation. Long time defensive line Coach John Balano is not just a coach, but a spiritual leader for the Rams. He is simply one of the nicest guys you'll ever want to meet, but don't let that fool you, because his D-Line saves niceties for after the game. Defensive coordinator Anthony Feliciano knows how much talent he has as well as their will to win. He'll be hoping they put it all together in this final game.

Who do I think is going to win? Hmmmmmmm. Everyone knows I'm a Renegade fan, but everyone, well not everyone, knows I call 'em like I see 'em. Some Renegade fans get mad at me for not being enough of an optimist. I believe this game is going to come down to special teams play and turnovers. BC has to have better kick coverage in this game than they have had, and CCSF is going to win the kicking game. The Gades will need to soften up the Rams defense with successful runs in order for the passing game to click. The Rams will have to do a better job against the run than they did against Butte when they gave up over 400 yards rushing.

When I first saw that stat I thought it was a misprint because NOBODY dominates a CCSF line like that. I think the key to this game is controlling the ball on the ground with periodic long passes to keep the Ds honest. I see the game as a 28-24 victory for the Renegades playing at home in front of a huge fan base. But in the past, many suckers have cast their vote over to Ram opponents only to be disappointed by the premiere program in the nation. One thing is for certain, it will be a very memorable game. You will likely not see a better atmosphere for juco ball in a long, long time.

Enjoy, and if you're driving in...be safe!

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