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

If you’re a fan of the College of San Mateo football team, it isn’t a mystery and actually more like a ritual.

Every year, when the new schedule is announced, you print it out, hang it on your wall at home and, with a nice, big, blue marker, circle one game on the NorCal conference docket: CSM versus CCSF.

Sure, the Bulldogs fully intend on playing a game that has bigger implications by season’s end, but year after year, in order to get there, the boys from the City College of San Francisco and their nine national titles stand in the way.

The 2013 season is no different. And the two gridiron giants, with a combined 11-1 record, will meet Saturday afternoon at College Heights Stadium to renew one of the best rivalries in California Community College football.

But if you’re head coach Bret Pollack and the Bulldogs, there isn’t a heighten sense of intensity or hype emanating from the home locker room. In fact, according to Pollack, Saturday’s game is indeed the biggest game of the year, but for one reason and one reason alone.

“It’s the most important game because it’s Game 7. Not because of who it is.” Pollack said.

“That something I don’t cater to,” he said. “That’s something I don’t talk about. It’s something that I don’t see with them (the players). It’s just normal. And that’s the way I want it. Why is it any different? Why does it deserve any more attention? Once you get you started into picking which games are more important. It’s a trap — a trap.”

In the grand scheme of things, Pollack is exactly right. The NorCal Conference is traditionally so tough that a perfect run is nearly impossible and the only thing that matters is representing the North in the state championship game at year’s end. But one slip, and that dream could be over.

But Saturday’s game is intriguing because of its recent history and the intensity both schools bring to the field come game day. In the last four years, only a 2010 contest would be considered lopsided (33-0 CCSF). From there, games have been decided by three, three and six points. The last time CSM beat the Rams was 2009 and not coincidentally, that was the year the Bulldogs went on to win the Northern California title.

“The word you used is ‘heightened,’ but I don’t like to say that because, what does that mean? That is wasn’t heightened before?” Pollack said when asked if there is an extra attention to detail that goes on during the week prior to the CCSF game. “We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing. The attention to detail has been heightened throughout the year. We started in January and it’s gone all the way through. If we just keep the same attention to detail that we’ve worked at, that we’ve trained, that we’ve disciplined, I think that will show benefits this week.”

CSM (6-0, 1-0) comes into the game behind its best defensive effort of the year. In a 33-0 shutout of Foothill College, the Bulldogs shut down the Owls to the tune of 197 yards of total offense and forced five turnovers — one of which turned into a an 85-yard Pick 6 for the former Menlo-Atherton Bear Taylor Mashack.

“They played well,” Pollack said. “They took away the run and Foothill was trying to go with a four-receiver set and throw the ball and they were 16 for 41 passing so the defense completely controlled Foothill. So, excellent job. The main thing I’m looking at is, are we making our team goals? And as a team, we’re achieving our goals.”

The goals haven’t and won’t change for CSM: play hard, win the turnover battle and have more explosive plays than the other team. Against Foothill, Pollack said all three were accomplished (5-3 turnovers) and offensively, George Naufahu led the charge with his 136 yards on the ground.

“I challenged the guys at half time to see who would step up,” Pollack said. “I didn’t feel like the offense was executing at full power so I challenged the guys, who was going to give the effort? And George rose to the occasion. He did a good job. He ran hard, the O-line opened up holes and we found a weakness in their defense that we kept exploiting. In this game, the opportunity rose for George and he took it. That was good to see. The running back position did [well] this week.”

The rushing attack will need a similar performance against a CCSF (5-1, 1-0) team fresh off a win against De Anza College — a week after losing to a good American River College squad. The Rams’ first four wins were very lopsided, but the Dons and American River have shown the CCSF defense to be vulnerable. Still, the Rams have four-year college talent across the board.

Up front, CSM will have to contend with a trio of great players in Trevor Trammel, Tavita Faalu and former Serra Padre David Tameilau. Trammel leads the Rams with five sacks, Faalu has 3.5 and 11.5 tackles for loss.

At the linebacker position, James Hickman and Nicolas Holt are first and third in tackles. And the secondary is manned by Shalom Luani and Myles Holmes (Jefferson-Daly City) who have five combined interceptions.

“They’re a solid team,” Pollack said. “They’re a traditional San Francisco team — well coached, good athletes, good schemes. It’s going to be a very good game.”

Offensively, CCSF teams have never lacked in the explosive player department. This season is no exception. They’re fronted by former Menlo-Atherton quarterback Turner Baty, who’s completed 53 percent of his passes for 1,725 yards and 17 touchdowns this season. It’s a passing attack, highlighted by two great receivers in Xavier Amey and Zach Schuller, that averages just under 300 yards a game.

“Pressure does interesting things,” Pollack said when asked about slowing down good passing attacks – not unlike the one Foothill boasted prior to last Saturday’s game. “It’s a natural instinct. When you stand in there and you’re in it (the pressure), it changes the way you think really fast.”

To ease the CSM pressure, CCSF will turn to Jahray Hayes, their leading scorer and rusher. Hayes is averaging 68.5 yards per game and has 411 yards rushing on the season. Davion Ballard has to be on CSM’s radar as well. His 77.8 yards per game leads the Rams. Clawsondy Cayo is pretty explosive. He averages 21.6 yards per touch.

Kick off for Saturday’s game is scheduled for 1 p.m. at CSM.

NOTES: Saturday’s game is also Astound Customer Appreciation Day. Complimentary game tickets are available at all area Astound retail locations (while supplies last). For Astound locations, go to … Special events will take place during the game. Astound will conduct a “Lucky Locker” giveaway with prizes for fans drawing a winning key that opens a locker. … CSM cheerleaders will throw Astound T-shirts to fans in attendance. … CSM will also host a barbecue for alumni starting at 11 a.m. Saturday. … Those festivities take place on the CSM track and field throw field right above the football stadium. … The first hundred game attendees wearing CSM’s blue colors will receive CSM cowbells.