In order to have a successful season, a team generally needs to have good luck on the injury front.
The Hancock College football team did not have good luck on the injury front in 2017.
The Bulldogs spent a good part of the year being banged up on both sides of the ball, particularly on the offensive line. For all that, the Bulldogs accomplished things no Hancock football team had for awhile.
Hancock won the Southern California Football Association American Division's Pacific League championship with a 5-0 league campaign for the school's first outright division league title since 1997. The Bulldogs hosted a bowl game for the first time in six years.
The league title was the first for Hancock under 17th-year coach Kris Dutra.
Hancock's hugely successful 8-3 2017 season ranks as No. 9 on the list of the Lee Central Coast Newspapers' Top 10 sports stories of the year.
The LCCN sports staff selected the stories.
At one time or another the Bulldogs were without tight end Dominic Chance, who was the Pacific League's Offensive Player of the Year, and their two leading receivers, Nick Kimball and Michael Ferraro.
Defensive tackle Anthony Miller, an all-league selection in 2016, was out the second half of the season. Dominic King was his replacement, and he had a big campaign.
In the American Championship Bowl game, which took place at Santa Maria High School on Nov. 18, the Bulldogs simply didn't have enough answers for Southewstern quarterback Demonte Morris, who had 189 yards of total offense, and the Jaguars' Isaiah Strayhorn, who ran for 129 yards in Chula Vista-based Southwestern's 35-14 win.
The Bulldogs also couldn't drive the ball consistently enough on offense. However, that didn't take the luster away from their season.
Hancock's leading tackler, linebacker Basiru Jobe, and team sacks leader, end Osa Omokaro, were able to play most of the season, and they helped anchor a Hancock defense that was the team's biggest strength.
Defensive end Connor Eppley, a Santa Ynez High School graduate, had a big year as well, and the Hancock defense checked a high-powered Antelope Valley offense as the Bulldogs won 21-7 on the road to clinch at least a bowl berth and a share of the league title.
Hancock held off a persistent Citrus team for a 29-24 win at home in the Bulldogs' regular season finale. Antelope Valley, which was 3-0 in league games, lost that day so Hancock won the league championship by a two-game cushion.
Hancock began the season with an inauspicious 21-6 loss at Bakersfield. The Bulldogs won three straight and then saw a 16-3 lead against San Bernardino Valley College at home disappear in Hancock's last non-league game of the year.
The Wolverines rallied to win 24-18.
Hancock delivered the goods after that. The offensive line steadily opened holes for a trio of rotating, productive backs, Ryheem Skinner, Damon Whitmill Jr., and Nipomo graduate Isaac Bausley, and Hancock's typically productive running game flourished. The Bulldogs wound up averaging 237 yards a game rushing.
Sophomore quarterback Jimmy Kelleher managed the offense efficiently as the season wore on. Hancock started its Pacific League campaign with a 31-3 rout of county rival Santa Barbara City College at SBCC and rolled on from there to finish an unbeaten Pacific League campaign.