The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.

It came down to one play.

And that scenario in a football game can be just as fulfilling as it is heartbreaking — even in a whale of a game, one team has to lose and the other win, based on that one play.

On Saturday, after a 60-minute heavyweight dogfight between the College of San Mateo and City College of San Francisco, it was the Rams who erased a 4-point deficit in the last two minutes of the game and celebrated a 31-28 win over the Bulldogs.

On Saturday, that play belonged to the Rams.

CCSF traveled 48 yards on five plays and converted on a 6-yard touchdown pass with 1:08 left on the clock to take a 31-28 lead and crushing CSM hearts everywhere.

“We needed one more stop, one more sack, you can look at a lot of different one-play scenarios in a game like that,” said CSM defensive coordinator and assistant head coach Tim Tulloch. “Instead of doing that with our guys, we just told them, it was a heck of battle. It came down to a 1-play game. I felt like those guys laid it all down on the field and they played extremely hard — everything they put into it was the main thing for our guys. There are no regrets.”

In a tight game like Saturday’s, it’s hard not to go back and point at certain plays, penalties or decisions that might have made a 3 or 4-point difference for the Bulldogs. CSM scored the go-ahead touchdown with 8:54 to play — an 84-yard touchdown pass from Blake Plattsmier to Levi Wilson that stunned a Rams team that had dominated the second half up to that point. Then, with CCSF driving, CSM’S Deshane Hines came up with an interception at the Bulldog 2-yard line with 3:54 left in the game.

The Bulldogs had the Rams on the ropes and needed to pound out a first down or two to milk the rest of the clock and come away with an upset of the No. 1 team in the state. But instead, CSM used up only 1:07 and punted the ball back to CCSF, giving them a 1st-and-10 at the Bulldog 48-yard line. Five plays later, the Rams dashed CSM hopes.

“I’ll tell you what, I’m proud of the effort of our kids,” Tulloch said. “They came out and from the get-go, we came out, punched it in and scored. And we put ourselves position to win it. It came down to a play. The guy from San Francisco made a great play, but the effort by our kids was outstanding.”

The Bulldogs did so many things right. First, they came out and used two minutes to march 75 yards and score the initial touchdown on a 28-yard run by George Naufahu. CSM’s defense was dialed in during that entire first half. CCSF did score the game-tying touchdown five minutes later after an 11-play drive and repeated the feat following a Aaron Criswell 45-yard touchdown catch that was actually thrown to him by Quincy Nelson on the halfback pass.

CCSF quarterback Andrew Spivey drove the Rams down the field 61 yards with 7:51 left in the half to tie the game at 14.

But the Bulldogs cashed in a huge special teams mistake by CCSF on a punt turned fumble and Plattsmier plowed his way into the end zone with seconds left in the half to give CSM the eye-opening advantage at halftime.

“We were there,” Tulloch said. “We didn’t give up cheap plays, they didn’t get anything over the top. They had to earn everything they got.”

The stat sheet favored CSM at the half with the Bulldogs up 203 to 142 in total yards and only 37 yards rushing for the Rams.

But CCSF seized control and the momentum in the third quarter. The Rams outscored the Bulldogs 10-0 in that frame and held on to the ball for almost 10 minutes — keeping the CSM offense off the field. CCSF got its first lead of the game on a field goal with 2:09 left in the quarter setting up a very tense fourth quarter of action.

“We felt we were good against their run game at halftime,” Tulloch said. “In the second half, it was pretty much the same runs, he (Kristoffer Olugbode) just ran harder in the third quarter.”

A tense fourth quarter is exactly what it turned out to be for both teams. CSM got the first big play on an 84-yard touchdown reception by Wilson. On that snap, an overthrown fade ball up the sideline by Plattsmier ended up in the hands of Wilson who never gave up on, circled around it and then blazed his way into the end zone for the 28-24 lead.

From there, the two defenses went toe to toe and when Hines intercepted a ball late in the contest, it looked like the Bulldogs would pull off the big win.

But with the ball on its 2-yard line, CSM could not gain a first down and had to punt the ball back to a CCSF offense that is head-deep in talent. And that 11-man unit needed five plays to pluck its way down the field and get the eventual game-winning score.

“There were some penalties that hurt us,” Tulloch said. “There were two very good football teams going at it and it came down to a play. You can pick which play it was. Our guys we put ourselves in a position to basically, whoever wins that came has poll position for the conference championship, but it came down to one play, one punch and we came up one short. But it doesn’t detract from the effort and all the good things the young men did in the game.”

CSM’s offense was held to 15 first downs in the game ad 355 yards of total offense. CCSF came in averaging almost 500 yards a game and 48 points per — those numbers were held to 426 and 31 respectively.

Olugbode rushed for 123 yards — Spivey added 57. No CSM rusher had over 60 yards. Plattsmier threw for 118 yards with one touchdown and an interception.