The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
What a difference a year makes — especially in community college football.
Last season, despite having the second best record in the state, College of San Mateo did not qualify for the playoffs. The reason? Butte College captured the NorCal Conference title — en route to a California Community College Athletic Association championship — while knocking the Bulldogs into second place and out of the postseason.
This year, with the two playing in different conferences due to the CCCAA realignment, and each team experiencing vast roster turnover since last season after each transferred a slew of freshmen, the Bulldogs got their revenge with a 51-6 blowout in nonconference play Saturday at Oroville’s Cowan Stadium.
“I was happy from the standpoint of we came out and followed our process and did what we’re supposed to do,” CSM head coach Bret Pollack said. “We played hard, we played physical, limited turnovers and the defense played very, very well.”
CSM (3-0) dominated in overall yards, outgaining Butte 484-309 while limiting the Roadrunners (1-2) to 173 rushing yards on 46 carries. The Bulldogs balanced their offensive attack despite losing starting quarterback Jeremy Cannon to injury on the second series of the game.
Amid a scoreless tie, Cannon was knocked out on the first play of CSM’s second series with a knee injury. Pollack classified the injury as unlikely having long-term repercussions, but it was serious enough to withhold Cannon from any further action Saturday. The freshman will be reevaluated Monday by a physician, according to Pollack.
The injury opened the door for backup quarterback Justin Burgess, however, and the freshman rose to the challenge. Burgess was 11-of-19 passing for 265 yards — the best single-game total for CSM this season — with two touchdown throws.
“He did a great job of running the offense and managing the game,” Pollack said. “We threw the ball pretty well. … He did a really good job without making a turnover and made some plays.”
Burgess emerged on the second play of a series which saw the Bulldogs start with their backs against the wall at their own 8-yard line. After a 3-yard run by Cannon which knocked him from the game, Burgess engineered the remainder of the 10-play, 92-yard drive, including three big third-down plays.
Facing his first third-down scenario from the CSM 12-yard line, Burgess hit Raeshawn Lee for a 24-yard strike and a first down. CSM later faced third-and-long from its own 27-yard line, but a pass interference penalty on a route to Lee gave the Bulldogs a first down at their own 42-yard line. Then on third-and-4 from the Butte 25-yard line, Burgess hit Kevin Kutchera for 23 yards and a first down.
On the ensuing play, sophomore running back Sammy Fanua rushed into the end zone to get the Bulldogs on the board.
“I think that series was pretty representative of the whole game,” Pollack said. “We were able to get some plays from the passing game and move the ball and then run it effectively.”
CSM extended its lead to 21-0 by halftime with a 16-yard touchdown strike from Burgess to Kutchera, followed by a 7-yard scoring run by Michael Latu.
In the second half, CSM ran its lead to 42-0 on touchdowns by D.J. Peluso (6-yard run), Elias Vargas (48-yard reception from Burgess) and Dewone Young (11-yard run) before Butte got on the board. Even when the Roadrunners scored on a 4-yard run by Quinta Thomas, the Bulldogs used it to cash in on the scoreboard when Anthony Hines returned a blocked point after try for an 85-yard defensive two-point conversion.
CSM capped the day’s scoring less than a minute later on a quick strike set up by a 50-yard kickoff return by Fanua. Michael Allen then ran the ball for carries of 38 and 4 yards, the latter of which he rushed into the end zone to push the Bulldogs across the 50-point threshold for the second consecutive week.
Kutchera continues to be a force as a receiver, surpassing the 100-yard mark for the third straight week. The sure-handed sophomore had six catches for 132 yards. He currently has 372 yards receiving on the season ranking sixth in the state.
“[Kutchera] had a good game,” Pollack said. “We had a good matchup on their corner that they were playing on him. [Lee with four catches for 85 yards] had a good game too. … The issue was we just liked the matchup of [Kutchera] on the other guy better.”
Pollack credited his defense with an outstanding effort, especially CSM’s cornerback tandem which includes redshirt freshman standout Mister Marshall-Cotton.
“We put a lot of pressure on the corners,” Pollack said. “They’re playing man-to-man, and when you can do that it allows you to have more guys playing other areas of the field. … We’ve put them on an island and they’re stepping up to the challenge.”
CSM sophomore linebacker Mosa Likio paced the squad with nine tackles. Linebackers Darius Henton and and Semisi Paea tabbed one sack apiece.
After two straight weeks on the road, CSM returns home Saturday to host winless San Joaquin Delta. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.