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Moorpark Seeks Northern Exposure

Football: Raiders hope to make statement at Bakersfield, where they've enjoyed success in the past.

September 27, 1997|VINCE KOWALICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Moorpark College will have to go some to get a victory tonight.

A hundred miles, for openers. All the way to Memorial Stadium in Bakersfield, where the going only gets tougher.

Yet, it has been a road to success for the Raiders in the past.

Moorpark (1-0) travels north for a Western State Conference interdivisional game at Bakersfield, where the Renegades often draw a crowd and seldom lose a game.

Bakersfield (2-0), a perennial power and four-time national champion, is ranked second in the state this season and first in Southern California.

The Renegades have scored a conference-high 82 points behind an offensive line that averages close to 300 pounds and has paved the way for 587 rushing yards, most in the conference.

Running backs J'Dron London and Armis Stokes share the WSC lead with four touchdowns apiece.

Still, it ranks as a rebuilding year in Bakersfield.

Memorial Stadium, a 20,000-seat fixture in the southern San Joaquin Valley since 1955, is in the second year of a two-year refurbishing that eventually will include additional seating, and a new track and playing surface.

All of which is likely to make the more-comfortable Renegades even more competitive in their digs.

Bakersfield, national champion as recently as 1988, has lost only 46 games at Memorial Stadium.

"It's definitely very difficult to play up there," Moorpark Coach Jim Bittner said. "It's a great stadium and they have a great crowd. They definitely have a home-field advantage because they win most of the time up there."

Most of the time--but not every time, as Bittner well knows.

Bittner, in his 19th season, has fared better in Bakersfield than most coaches. The Raiders have won two of five games in Bakersfield since the series began in 1986, with one ending in a 10-10 tie. Three years ago, Moorpark pulled off one of the biggest victories in school history, 23-20, before 8,000 at Memorial Stadium.

The Renegades that season were ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 2 in the nation, and had lost only five previous home games since 1988. Moorpark also ended the Renegades' 17-game conference winning streak.

Moorpark, which lost to Bakersfield, 40-22, at Moorpark last season, also won in Bakersfield in 1986, 17-14.

"We're one of the few teams that have been able to beat them up there, but we're a pretty good football team and that has more to do with it," Bittner said. "If you have a pretty good football team, you have a chance. If you don't have a pretty good football team, you have no chance. It's a tough place to go play. But on the other hand, it's exciting for the players."

Bittner plans to use plenty of players, especially running backs, while he continues to sort out starters from reserves. Eight players carried the ball in the Raiders' 33-19 victory over Antelope Valley two weeks ago.

George Jones, a sophomore from Hueneme High, will make his second start at quarterback but he is among three players battling for the starting job.

"I've never been to Bakersfield, but I hear it's loud and it's always packed in," Jones said. "That's fine. We've been practicing hard all this week. But you gotta practice hard when you're going to Bakersfield."

* GAME DAY

A look at today's games involving area teams. C16

* BIG SKY

Many teams are opening conference play today. C16

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