The article below originally appeared on mercurynews.com and is being reprinted with permission.
It’s that time of the year for College of San Mateo. It’s time to face the top-ranked team in the state. It’s time to take a stand.
“That’s why the young men come here, they get to play that schedule,” CSM assistant head coach Tim Tulloch said. “It’s going to push you every week to be at your best.”
Saturday at 1 p.m. the Bulldogs play at City College of San Francisco, which in the latest coaches’ poll received 15 of the 21 first-place votes. CSM is ranked eighth, with one loss already on its slate. But the Bulldogs (5-1, 1-0 NorCal Conference) know a win at CCSF will change the landscape in the race to the state championship.
“Every game in conference is important, and this is the most because it’s next,” Tulloch said. “The rankings and all that stuff are good, but in our minds the only rankings that matter are at the end of the season.”
The Rams (6-0, 1-0) are the second-highest scoring offense in the state at 48.3 points per game — one-tenth behind Riverside. It will be the toughest test so far for CSM’s defense, which is coming off a 37-3 win against Foothill College in which the Owls were held to 107 yards of total offense.
“I was just happy that we finally came together as a defense,” said CSM safety Matt Vinal, a graduate of Serra-San Mateo. “It felt so great not to let them in t he end zone for once. And we finally came out with a win that we feel proud about.”
Coming off its loss, CSM turned its focus to shutting down the run and taking away the big play — plus the Bulldogs won the turnover battle with three interceptions, including one by Vinal.
“Any time you make a team earn it, earn every point — you don’t give them cheap ones over the top, you don’t give them the easy ones, you make them earn it — it puts pressure on the offense,” Tulloch said. “They have to sustain an eight-play, 10-play, 12-play drive. It makes it a lot tougher on them.”
Vinal was credited with an assist on one tackle, though the lack of production was a direct result of the defensive line and linebackers in front of him.
“We just have to have that sense of urgency, that killer instinct,” CSM defensive lineman Lyman Faoliu said. “You have to come out after halftime with your foot on the pedal. We proved in that Foothill game last weekend that we have that. And I feel it’s only going to get better and better.”
On offense, CSM managed just 17 points and 199 yards of total offense through three quarters, then erupted for 20 points in the fourth quarter and more than doubled its yardage total. Quarterback Blake Plattsmeier, making his first start of the season, threw two touchdowns and ran for another.
“With anything, especially throwing the football and being able to make good decisions, you have to get in a rhythm,” Tulloch said. “And he missed on some throws early, but all of a sudden they just started finding their mark. They’re on time. And I think he took a big step forward and was able to put it all together.”
With that thought in mind, the Bulldogs hope to make CCSF’s quarterback uncomfortable in the pocket.
“Pressure on any quarterback will always help,” Faoliu said. “Our goal is to hit the quarterback as many times as we can, get sacks and disturb his rhythm. That’s a key to this game. Winning up front.”
Another concern will be running back Kris Olugbode, who is averaging 145.5 rushing yards per game and has scored 11 touchdowns. Vinal is quite familiar with Olugbode, a former standout at West Catholic Athletic League rival Bellarmine-San Jose.
“I know what he can bring,” Vinal said. “He’s a good, solid back. So they’re going to be fun to play against.”
“They haven’t lost yet, and it’s because they’re scoring 50 a game,” Tulloch said. “So we’re going to have our hands full.”