The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
It’s the almost unfair and cruel reality playing football in the NorCal Conference.
You can celebrate a huge victory on Saturday. Maybe even a little on Sunday. But come Monday, if you’re still dwelling on your latest achievement, frankly you’re already behind for the next game.
That’s life right now if you’re the College of San Mateo. Forty-eight hours after taking down rival City College of San Francisco for the first time since 2009 in what one of their team captains described as a spiritual win, the Bulldogs are in full-on preparation mode with a pending four- hour bus ride up north to face the No. 1 ranked team in the state — Butte College. Both teams are undefeated in 2013.
“I told the guys we’re 7-0 on Saturday, 7-0 on Sunday, 0-0 on Monday,” said CSM head coach Bret Pollack. “It’s great because … you can’t look back. And so many people want to look back and you have another game coming. And it goes both ways. You have to train yourself, wins and losses, the same way because if it was a negative result, you don’t want to hang on to it either. The problem is, you can’t pick and choose. You have to discipline yourself, stay in your routine, stay in the moment — and if you want to celebrate more, then win next week.”
That’s easier said than done for the Bulldogs. City College of San Francisco was a tough test, no doubt about it. And CSM passed with flying colors. The Bulldogs overcame penalty flag after penalty flag, plus a pair of key injuries in last Saturday’s 30-25 win.
“The guys fought through that,” Pollack said. “And I felt at times they felt like we were playing two teams out there. And I understand. But to feel sorry for yourself and give less effort, and get frustrated, that isn’t going to solve the problem. It’s going to make it worse.”
What solved the problem then, was a trio of huge plays on offense and a defense that held the Rams to almost 300 yards under their season average. But that’s over and done with and a tougher test awaits up in Butte.
“The analogy I used is this,” Pollack said. “You can’t drive home tonight looking through the rear view mirror. You’re not going to go very far. And everybody wants to look back at all the great things we did — well, create new great things. And you can always live in the moment with new things. That was my message to them. Look through the windshield and not the rear view mirror. Good job. Move on.”
CSM might be looking to move forward, but there’s a team in Butte that can bring that drive to a screeching hault. And just like CCSF, the Roadrunners have not lost to the Bulldogs since a 40-23 decision in 2009. In three games since, Butte has beat CSM by 1, 34 and 8 points respectively.
“They’re a different animal,” Pollack said. “Different animal from the personnel, different animal from the way they play. There’s a ton of different things within a defense that we’re looking at.
“It’s power against power,” Pollack continued. “I would fathom that we’re the only two teams that run more than we pass in Northern California. And our philosophies are close and similar in nature — on how to play football. They’re set up to stop the run and run the ball. We’re set up to stop the run and run the ball.”
Both teams will take to the ground often next Saturday in Oroville. Butte comes in as the state’s best rushing attack with 356 of its 513 yards of total offense per game coming via the rush. It’s a daunting task for the Bulldogs who have to basically come up with a way to stop a team that is a mirror image of themselves.
The Roadrunners are very efficient with the rush and come at you in waves. They have six players with at least 100 yards rushing on the season. And their seventh guy might only have 88 yards on the ground, but he’s the quarterback and he has five rushing touchdowns — good for second on the team. Hence, Saturday’s focus can’t all go on Kendall Williams (946 yards, seven touchdowns, 8.2 yards per carry), because players like Robert Frazier or Armand Bokitch can burn you.
“The (running) back is always there. It’s just, they just have different guys,” Pollack said. “The issue with them is multi-formations, different personnel packages. Every offense has its form of deception. Butte’s is all its formations, personnel packaging. It presents its challenges and problems. We call it, ‘Look at the birdie.’ Every offense has its own ‘Look at the birdie’ to slow down the defense and make them confused. And Butte’s strength is that. They have a good offensive line. They’re patient. They’re very dedicated to their run. You ain’t going to scare them out of it. Ever. And that’s how we are too. You’re going to have to defend if for four quarters.”
The Roadrunners have proven they can defend anyone’s rushing attack for the full 60 minutes. They come into the game allowing just 48.7 yards per game while CSM is running the ball at a 271.9 yards-per-game rate. Butte’s front seven is among the most intimidating in the state. They’re recorded 27 sacks, 75 tackles for loss and their defense as a whole has 11 players with at least 20 tackles on the season.
The key for CSM might be going to the air. Butte has allowed 196 yards passing. For that, quarterback Casey Wichman will have to build on one of his best passing performance of the season last Saturday against the Rams. Twice, Wichman connected on long touchdown passes.
“Whenever you have a running game, your quarterback better be efficient,” Pollack said. “They’re going to sell out to stop the run and you have to make the big plays. You either have to be efficient or explosive. It’s going to be one of the two.”
Kickoff for what those in the JC football circle are calling the Game of the Season, is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday in Oroville.