Exposure can be everything in junior college football.
More games mean additional tape and additional chances for a four-year program to find you and extend an offer for your services.
College of the Canyon did its part to try and increase that exposure Saturday with a 44-21 win over Bakersfield College at Cougar Stadium. Canyons now awaits the final Southern California Football Association National Division rankings to see if they’ll get a crack at the playoffs.
“We’re still in the mix as far as I know,” said Cougars coach Ted Iacenda. “It’s going to come down to some smarter guys than me to figure that out.”
The Cougars will need to be ranked inside the top four of the SCFA National Division to secure a wild-card berth. Iacenda said it was going to be a close call between Canyons and Saddlebackebck College, and expected to find out Saturday night.
Canyons entered the day ranked seventh, with Saddleback, which defeated Orange Coast on Saturday, ranked fourth. Bakersfield entered the day in a tie for fifth.
Bakersfield jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter on a touchdown pass from Brandon Jones to Cameron Roberson and a 74-yard punt-return touchdown from Jakell Tomlin.
“It was going to take a great effort on our part to not give them the game and not make silly mistakes to shoot ourselves in the foot,” Iacenda said. “To be quite honest, it looked like in the first quarter we were going to do exactly that.”
The Cougars defense barely budged following the hiccup to open the game, forcing five turnovers (three fumble recovers, two interceptions) while holding Bakersfield without an offensive touchdown in the second half.
“It was just all the stunts we were doing,” said defensive tackle Chris Faingaa, who forced and recovered a fumble. “We saw early that we weren’t going to be able to handle (the stunts). They also focused a lot more on our (defensive) ends, so that opened it up for the tackles.”
Saugus alum Austin Davenport hauled in one of the Cougars’ interceptions, with Noel Iwuchukwu and Alonso Reeves bringing in the others. Canyons allowed an average of 15 points over its final four games.
“I feel like, defensively, we’re one of the top teams in the state right now,” Iacenda said. “We were rocking and rolling and that was the No. 10 team in the state. We pretty much shut them down.”
Freshman quarterback Andrew Brito finished off his first regular season by completing 25 of 41 passes for 391 yards and a touchdown along with an interception.
Brito scored the Cougars’ first touchdown of the night on a 2-yard rush in the first quarter. He then found Desean Holmes and Brandon Pierce for touchdowns as part of a 24-point second quarter. Jalen Logan scored a 2-yard rushing score of his own in the final two minutes of the first half to put Canyons up 34-21 at the half.
“It was just another game and we all did our job,” Brito said. “If we do that, nobody can beat us.”
Holmes led the Cougars with five catches for 106 yards to go with the touchdown. Pierce added a 39-yard rushing touchdown in the second half and seven carries for 62 yards.
With their second-place finish in the Northern Conference, the Cougars have assured themselves at least a bowl game if they fail to qualify for the playoffs.