BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer email@example.com
As the newly crowned junior college state football champions swarmed the sideline, whooping it up with the red-clad crowd at Memorial Stadium, it became clear.
This state championship wasn't just a victory for Bakersfield College football. It was a victory for Bakersfield football in general.
When the Renegades dismissed City College of San Francisco 35-14, they did it with an 88-man roster that includes 76 players from Kern County, including 65 from Bakersfield itself.
"This program is special," BC coach Jeff Chudy said. "It's so sweet for it to be done here with all these local guys. Why (a local player) would ever leave here to go play somewhere where (junior college football) means nothing is beyond me. Our community supports us, and that just validates what we've been doing for a long time."
You didn't have to go far to find the home school of the game’s most valuable player, Garces product Jalen Sykes, nor the defensive player of the game, Highland’s John Oglesby.
“It’s amazing,” said Oglesby, who had 81⁄2 tackles, two for a loss, and returned a fumble 35 yards for a touchdown and a 28-0 lead in the second quarter. “Bakersfield needed something like this. It means a lot for us to give it to them.”
That’s the other benefit of running an (almost) all-local program: When the town’s own sons play well, the town shows up to watch. And 16,125 — a CCCAA state-championship record — showed up at Memorial Stadium. They tailgated, they waved towels and they screamed until the party was over. And then they screamed some more.
“We’re extremely excited for what we did as a football team,” Chudy said. “And to do it here, what a great feeling. Words can’t explain what it means to do this in front of a home crowd. It couldn’t be any sweeter.”
Everywhere you turned in this championship game, a Kern County kid was making a play. Bakersfield High’s Brian Burrell threw for 135 yards and a touchdown to West High’s Michael Dunn. Burrell also ran 21 yards for a second-half score.
Three BHS graduates — Alfonso Jackson, Chris Hannible and Mercy Maston — formed the nucleus of a secondary that yielded 357 yards to CCSF quarterback Andrew Spivey but also picked off two passes (both by Jackson) and held the Rams scoreless in three red-zone trips.
Oglesby was a monster from the defensive line. He lived in the backfield, pressuring Spivey on seemingly every play and making the big scoop-and-score that gave BC a huge second-quarter lead. He also helped the BC defense hold CCSF to 40 rushing yards.
Sykes ran for 179 yards, including 161 in the first half, and his 42-yard touchdown run in the first quarter gave the Renegades a two-touchdown lead they would never relinquish.
He’s also a perfect example of a junior-college success story.
At Garces, Sykes played often but, even though he was considered a Division I prospect, he never got a chance to be a lead running back and eventually ran into off-field trouble. He went to BC, where he ran for nearly 1,500 yards and won a state championship.
“It’s truly a blessing,” Sykes said.
“I never got this opportunity in high school, and this makes up for it. This was a Division I atmosphere, and I enjoyed every bit of it.”
Oglesby, too, relished the junior-college route. He signed with Fresno State out of Highland but didn’t qualify academically. Instead, he went to BC.
“Oh, yes, it was worth it,” he said. “Makes it all worth it.”
On and on the list goes: Grant Campbell (Garces), the team’s leading tackler; Dunn and Brock Martin (Ridgeview), who combined for over 1,000 receiving yards; Austin Tijerina (Wasco) punting and Tyler Schleicher (Stockdale) kicking.
“As you could see, our chemistry was outstanding,” Chudy said. “We have a bunch of home-grown guys who play hard.”
None went Division I, at least not out of high school. And yet, none of them seemed to mind as the sunlight faded over Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
“I feel like this is Bakersfield’s D-I program,” Sykes said. “It’s a big stadium, a big, huge tradition. We did it for our town. We did it for Bakersfield.”