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COC football: COC faces must win

The Cougars go into their regular season finale needing a victory and some help

Posted: November 12, 2010 11:06 p.m.
Updated: November 13, 2010 4:55 a.m.

College of the Canyons football still has hopes of making the Southern California playoffs.

But it's safe to say its chances are slim.

For starters, COC will have to beat Bakersfield College today at 1 p.m. at Bakersfield.

That, combined with a Cerritos College loss later in the day would give the Cougars the National Division, Northern Conference title through a head-to-head tiebreaker.

Right now, Cerritos, Bakersfield and COC are all tied for first place in the conference at 3-1, but Cerritos holds the tiebreaker over the other two.

If Cerritos wins its game against last-place Allan Hancock College, it will win the conference regardless of the COC-Bakersfield outcome.

The only other way to earn one of the two remaining playoff spots is to be selected according to a power-ranking index. The Cougars (6-3, 3-1) are unlikely to be selected considering that they are ranked No. 15 in the state poll, which is below many other Southern California teams.

"You're in the last game of the season with a chance to make the playoffs," said Cougars head coach Garett Tujague. "That's all you can ask for."

Bakersfield (7-2, 3-1) comes in ranked No. 6 in the state, but lost control of its own destiny in the conference after losing on a last-second blocked field goal to Cerritos last week. Cerritos returned the block for a touchdown to win the game 27-21.

"It was a tough deal. The game goes on, but the ball's not round," said Bakersfield head coach Jeff Chudy. "It's going to bounce funny."

One funny bounce could very well make the difference in today's evenly matched contest.

"One of the things that I think my staff and I do a pretty good job of is teaching our kids history," Tujague said. "For whatever it's worth, the Bakersfield College matchup is the ultimate rubber match of rubber matches."

The overall series between the two is tied at 5-5. Both teams are built around strong defense, and both teams put strong emphasis on playing as a team, Chudy said.

"We aren't overpowering by any stretch of the imagination," he said. "We've been successful because we've been able to stay together as a team and do all the little things right."

Case in point: Bakersfield quarterback Lyle Negron, who has thrown just two interceptions this season with 1,237 yards and 12 touchdowns passing.

Negron is also the team's leading rusher at 482 yards, but has the running back tandem of Julian Dean-Johnson and Andre Smith, who have a combined 885 yards on the ground.

Chalk it up as another challenge for the talented front seven of the Cougar defense.

It was a group that tallied eight sacks and contributed to Ventura quarterback Antavius Sims' sub-par 15-of-48 numbers through the air.

And that was without COC starting middle linebacker Khalil Bass, who sat out with an ankle injury. In his absence, the safeties and cornerbacks stepped up nicely, Tujague said.

"Those guys are a lot better than most people give them credit for because those D-linemen and linebackers are so good," he said of the secondary.

Offensively, expect the unexpected with COC. Tujague said the key to getting through the Renegades' defense is getting away from COC's tendencies.

The game will serve as both teams' regular-season finale in the first season of the conference realignment, that has placed the Cougars among several of the state's top-ranked teams.

"It's brutal. It's a fist fight every Saturday," Tujague said of the conference. "It's tough to make it through that without getting banged up just with the normal wear and tear of football. But then you add that you're playing the supreme teams in football."




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