The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
The talk heading into Saturday’s showdown between Diablo Valley College and the College of San Mateo football teams was the Vikings’ offense — at over 500 yards a game, the Viking offense was by far the toughest the Bulldogs had faced to begin the 2012 season.
But CSM quarterback John Willis showed that his Bulldogs know a little something something about putting points on the board.
Behind an inspired 187-yard rushing performance by Willis, CSM defeated DVC 35-29. Willis rushed the ball 16 times, with a handful of his carries coming at key moments of the game. For the contest, CSM racked up 395 on the ground while holding the Vikings to 465 yards — the lowest by any team DVC has faced this season.
“Honestly, the game was great,” Willis said. “It’s what a quarterback dreams of — pressure and everybody is looking at you to lead your team and do what you have to do. I enjoy the pressure. I took it upon myself to put my team on my back and I refused to let them down.”
“That was the difference in the game,” said CSM head coach Bret Pollack. “He was explosive in the run game. He threw the ball when he should. He knew from the game plan that they were going to put it on him.”
The Bulldog defense bent a lot — Quinn Kaehler, the state’s leading passer, threw for 383 yards while the explosive Diante Jackson caught 11 balls for 173 yards. But CSM buckled down when they needed to and forced six DVC turnovers.
“We worked hard all week,” said CSM linebacker Sione Sina, who had four tackles and a huge sack late in the game. “We heard about how they practiced and we wanted to go harder and be more physical. We wanted to come out and deliver a blow, deliver the first punch and hit them in the mouth.”
“We had to punch them in the mouth first,” Pollack said, “with a good team like that, you don’t want to be behind, you want to play from in front. My thing was keep punching, keep pounding them, keep being physical.”
The Vikings actually delivered the very first blow, marching 68 yards on the initial drive for the opening touchdown.
But CSM responded very quickly, going 63 yards on nine plays and tying the game on a Levi Wilson 1-yard touchdown with 4:07 left in the first quarter.
From there, the Bulldogs took the upper hand — thanks in large part to the play of Willis.
“We knew DVC could put up points but I knew my defense my defense could hold them and do what they had to do,” Willis said. “And I made sure my offense had to put points on the board to help our defense. It was a tight game. First half, I think we got a little complacent and they come out and were ready. But we got the victory.”
CSM scored the next three touchdowns and added an Austin Pacheco field goal to build a 29-7 lead.
Quincy Nelson scored a 10-yard touchdown three minutes into the second quarter. Willis struck next on a 34-yard touchdown fun-run and Alex Bravo added six more points on an 11-yard TD scamper. Pacheco’s 40-yard field goal gave CSM a 22-point lead with 9:37 left in the third quarter. At the core of this offensive surge was Willis, who ran the offense with great efficiency.
“I was just reading, doing what I had to do,” Willis said. “And it opened up for me. I took advantage of the plays that I was given but I wasn’t trying to force anything or do anything extra. It’s making plays trying to take risks. As a quarterback, you need to take risks. If we’re going to fail, were going to fail trying.”
But DVC’s offense is too potent to keep under wraps for very long — especially when CSM’s own turnover troubles kept feeding the Viking offense with opportunities.
After a special teams fumble, DVC capitalized on a 3-yard touchdown connection between Kaehler and Jackson. And with 12:43 left in the game, Andre Lewis got into the action, scoring on a 43-yard touchdown pass from Kaehler to make it 29-22.
“Good players are going to make their plays,” Pollack said of Jackson and Kaehler. “We knew we could score, we just had to be the ones to outscore them and that’s what ended up happening.”
With the lead on the ropes, Willis stepped up again. His 7-yard touchdown run capped off a three-play drive that gave CSM a two-touchdown advantage with 4:48 left in the game.
DVC added a score late on another Lewis touchdown grab. But CSM’s defense ultimately held on to give the Bulldogs a win.