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COC gets big challenge in conference finale

Cougars football is bowl-game eligible and playing for pride

Posted: November 13, 2009 11:05 p.m.
Updated: November 14, 2009 4:30 a.m.

Things haven’t exactly gone according to plan for the College of the Canyons football team.

At times, the offense has lacked luster.

Traditionally easy games have become close games.

Nonetheless, the Cougars are still primed to make the postseason.

But first, they must get past archrival Bakersfield College tonight at 7 p.m. at Cougar Stadium.

“For us it’s as big as it gets, obviously,” said COC head coach Garett Tujague. “There have been some epic battles.”

The Cougars (6-3, 3-2) are already bowl eligible and with the playoffs now a foregone conclusion, they await their bowl assignment on Sunday afternoon.

“Sometimes everything doesn’t go as planned, but you have an opportunity to leave a mark on this year,” said Tujague of his message to his team.

It is the first time since 2006, when COC finished 5-5, that the team did not make the playoffs.

That doesn’t mean that Bakersfield (8-1, 5-0) is taking the Cougars lightly.

“They’ve probably played more close games than anyone we’ve faced,” said Renegades head coach Jeff Chudy. “They are a couple field goals away from being 8-1, same situation we are in.”

Chudy also referred back to COC’s 26-13 victory over Fullerton on Sept. 26 as a reminder of the potential the Cougars have on a weekly basis.

Fullerton is currently ranked No. 2 in Southern California in the California Community College Regional State Football Poll with only one loss.

“You have transition all the time,” Chudy said of COC’s perceived struggles. “It’s hard to maintain 10-0, 9-1, 8-2 every year. I know as much as we aspire to be that way, it really is tough to go 10 years in a row at that level.”

Bakersfield brings balanced offense, strong defense and a five-game winning streak to Cougar Stadium.

The Renegades are ranked No. 1 in the National Division Northern Conference in points allowed at 14.3 per game, while the Cougars are No. 2 at 15.7.

However, Bakersfield is also first in scoring offense, posting a staggering 40.6 per game, to COC’s 24.7.

“You are going to see us running around, and hopefully we will be able to do what we’ve been doing in mixing up the run and the pass,” Chudy said. “For us to be successful, we are going to have to do both.

“If you look at what we’ve done, we are offensively equal from run and pass. We try to mix it up,” he added.

Renegades freshman quarterback Logan Kilgore is 101-of-172 for 1,818 yards, 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions, while sophomore running back Matthew Estill is averaging 5.1 yards per carry with 771 total yards and eight scores.

Kilgore’s primary target has been Rishard Matthews, who has 40 receptions for 544 yards and five touchdowns.

Tujague said his defense must come ready to play.

“I think the same players are going to step up and make plays defensively,” he said.

That includes sophomore lineman Jake Tepper, sophomore linebacker Evan Harrington sophomore defensive backs Arron Fisher and Josh Gibbs and freshman defensive back Kenny Shanahan.

Shanahan leads the team with 57 tackles, followed by Harrington’s 49 with 5 1/2 sacks.

Offensively, the Cougars will get quarterback Eric Brown back from his one-game suspension incurred during a 23-6 loss to Ventura for fighting.

Tujague expects Brown and Justin Morales to share snaps.

Without Brown last week, Morales was 13-of-23 for 194 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.

“Justin stepped up and did some pretty good things,” Tujague said. “He struggled early, but you know, he came through and I think he did a good job.”

In last week’s 29-22 victory over Pasadena City College, Morales found wide receiver Stephen London for a 20-yard score in overtime.

On the Lancers’ ensuing drive, Harrington intercepted quarterback Nick Ponce’s pass to end the game.

Tonight’s game could come down to similar heroics.



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