The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
Leave it to a football coach to put everything in perspective.
Ranking? Doesn’t matter. Undefeated? Doesn’t matter. Coming off a bye week? Doesn’t matter. Playing a rival coming off a bye? Doesn’t matter.
So what does matter? Only how the team responds to practice and the upcoming game.
“We don’t listen to what anyone says,” said College of San Mateo coach Bret Pollack. “We have a lot of things to work on.”
Pollack has perfected the art of saying nothing while saying something. In the end, however, he is right. It doesn’t matter what the Bulldogs ranking is going into Week 6 (by the way, CSM is ranked No. 5 in the state and No. 3 in Northern California, according to the JC Athletic Bureau polls).
“We don’t talk about it (rankings),” Pollack said. “What is it supposed to do for you? … The Goal is to be No. 1 at the end (of the season). … We’ll end up proving where we belong (in the polls).”
As for the Bulldogs’ record, it’s true: they, along with Butte, are the only team in the NorCal Conference to complete non-conference play with perfect 5-0 records. Pollack, however, puts no credence in that. Those games are over, done. The only game that matters is the next one of the schedule — which is rival Foothill. Pollack will say his team is undefeated, but only because he goes into every week undefeated with the focus only on Saturday’s game.
“Yep. We’re 0-0. We’re undefeated,” Pollack said. “We’re getting ready for Foothill. Call it the game of the year, game of the decade, call it whatever you want to call it.”
Well certainly the bye week must have come at the right time, or, the wrong time, depending on your view. One school of thought is the week off allows a team to get healthy and take one last deep breath before diving into conference play.
On the other hand, some may say why ruin the momentum of a 5-0 start by taking a week off?
Pollack has a simple answer.
“I’ll tell you (if the bye week was a positive or negative) after our next game,” he said. “It’s good to get a little time away. … It is good, mentally. … (But) you always wonder when people get out of their routine. Then it becomes unpredictable. That would be the only worry.”
Does Pollack worry about having to face a rival coming off a bye week? Nope.
“You have to play them all anyway,” Pollack said. “I just know we have five more and we’ll take them one at a time.”
Foothill has struggled at times this season in putting together a 2-3 record and are coming off a 51-6 thumping at the hands of Sierra two weeks ago. The Owls offense ranks fourth in the conference, averaging 386.6 yards of offense per game. Running back Sam Fanua (Milpitas) is second in the conference, averaging 116.8 yards per game in four games. He sat out the loss to Sierra.
CSM, on the other hand, is last of the six-team conference, averaging 370 yards of offense per game — which shows you how strong the conference is. Butte, the No. 1-ranked team in the state, by comparison, is averaging more than 500 yards of offense per game.
If the game of football was played on only the offensive side of the ball, the Bulldogs might be in trouble. But it isn’t. Defensively is where CSM is standing tall. The Bulldogs are third in the conference in points allowed, giving up a little more than 17 points per game, compared to Foothill, which is allowing 331 yards per contest.
“Obviously, we have a long history (against each other),” Pollack said. “We’re very familiar with each other.”
Pollack said several CSM players used the bye week to take recruiting visits to four-year schools. He said the coaching staff has a list of do’s and don’ts they impart to their wards before sending them out to try and sell themselves to coaches at the next level.
“There is a long tutorial to that: what you do, what you don’t do. It’s a job interview,” Pollack said. “Sometimes we take for granted guys know how to handle job interviews.”
On top of that, Pollack said he has to guard against players losing focus on the season at hand as they try to decide their future. Pollack is keenly aware of this and has taken steps to make sure the players keep their focus on the here and now, acknowledging it’s no different than any other distraction.
“You have to guard against every external influence. Any external influence where the goal is not the same (as ours). We are very much in tune to what is happening. These (four-year) coaches will hound them. We regulate that. Otherwise, you’re getting calls every five minutes. Trust me, we’re on top of that,” Pollack said. “We are very conscious about [recruiting] and help them through that process.”