BY JEFF EVANS Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Bakersfield College's march to the first state football championship in program history was truly a team effort.
Sure, the Renegades had plenty of star players. Eleven earned first-team All-National Northern Conference honors and three more were second-team choices.
But it all had to mesh together. The stars, the other starters, the situational players, the backups who only played in the waning seconds of blowout wins and the redshirts who practiced each day fully knowing they wouldn't get on the field -- they all contributed to the 11-2 season capped by Saturday's 35-14 state title win over City College of San Francisco.
They all had to buy into the BC system, and they were molded into an efficient group by a hard-working band of coaches.
BC also had the great fortune of avoiding devastating injuries this season. There were injuries, most notable a severe hamstring strain to wide receiver and kick returner Chaz Adams in the El Camino game that sidelined him six weeks.
At the time of the injury, Adams had moved his game to a new level as a potential game-changing player.
But the march to the state title would have been much more difficult, if not impossible, without some notable elements from a very forgettable 2011 season.
In 2011, BC went 4-6 and needed a victory in its final game of the season to avoid what would have been the first winless conference season in Renegades history.
During the fourth game in 2011, BC quarterback Brian Burrell suffered a broken collarbone that ended his season.
Burrell was on his way to an outstanding season. And as a Division I qualifier out of high school, Burrell figured to transfer after that season to a D-1 school.
But the injury derailed those plans and prompted Burrell's return to BC this season.
Healthy all year, Burrell's performance as a passer and runner, along with his leadership of the BC offense, was crucial to BC's title charge.
The running game may have been the catalyst down the stretch, but opponents always had to respect Burrell's passing ability. That's why teams couldn't line up eight players near the line of scrimmage to try and shut down the ground game.
Coach Jeff Chudy calls Burrell and Jacob Bower, the quarterback of BC's 12-1 team in 2007, the top two quarterbacks he's seen in his 20 years with the BC program.
Had Burrell stayed healthy throughout 2011 and transferred, could BC have made its title run this season? Doubtful.
Then there's cornerback Alfonso Jackson, who had a strong freshman season in 2010 but was academically ineligible in 2011. He re-focused on academics to get himself eligible and was a key cog in BC's passing defense. He had two interceptions against CCSF on Saturday.
Eight of the all-conference BC players were sophomores who gained invaluable experience in the otherwise forgettable 2011 season. That experience was invaluable in the state title run this season.
And BC benefitted from other intangibles that put this group of players together. Here are some examples:
* Mercy Maston, sophomore cornerback: A Division I recruit out of Bakersfield High, he didn't have the academics to be D-1 eligible. For two seasons, he's been the Renegades' best man-to-man defender and a two-time all-conference pick.
* Grant Campbell, freshman inside linebacker: Chose baseball over football when he graduated from Garces High and accepted a baseball scholarship to Cal State Bakersfield. He grew disenchanted after seeing virtually no playing time at CSUB and left that team well before the season ended. He began working out with BC's football team last spring and had a sensational season in 2012, earning first-team all-conference honors and leading BC in tackles.
* Clint Carter, freshman defensive lineman: Joined BC after four years in the military, including a stint in Afghanistan. He said he wasn't ready to play football when he graduated four years earlier from Centennial High, but gained maturity with his military experience.
Chudy said Carter's influence on fellow defensive lineman John Oglesby was invaluable. Campbell, Carter and Oglesby proved to be formidable rushing defenders who were particularly overpowering down the stretch this season.
* Marquise Johnson, freshman wide receiver: Didn't join the Renegades until a week before the season opener. From Houston, he nearly chose to attend a JC in Texas before settling on BC. By midseason, he was the most dangerous deep threat receiver in the conference and added another dimension to his game when he took over kick returning duties when Adams was injured. His addition gave BC another game-changing talent.
Undoubtedly there are others who have their own unique stories on how they wound up at BC with this group of athletes.
Chudy said it was a fun group to work with. He never tired of pumping up the value of team chemistry.
Even with two losses in their first four games, BC's players and coaches never doubted this team's potential.
"You couldn't go out any better than this," Oglesby said minutes after BC wrapped up Saturday's victory. "To win the state, it's amazing."
Said running back Jalen Sykes: "We never lost faith. Our coach said if we get to the playoffs, we're going to make a run. We went to the playoffs, made an excellent run and took care of business."