The article below originally appeared on MercuryNews.com and is being reprinted with permission.
Realignment in community college football ended the rivalry between College of San Mateo and Butte College, but the schedule makers made sure that two of the top teams in Northern California clashed on the gridiron in 2014.
Butte, the reigning state champion, handed CSM its lone last season. The Bulldogs were stopped at the 2-yard line on the final play of the game to fall 28-20, the only time the Roadrunners failed to win by double digits.
Does that game still linger in the minds of the sophomores at CSM?
“That’s a good question. I haven’t asked it,” CSM coach Bret Pollack said. “I still remember it, of course. I don’t know how much motivation it brought me personally to do better because it’s over with and it’s not like I’m relying on some external thing to motivate me. Now, the kids, I don’t know. I truthfully haven’t asked. … Each kid would probably be different, to be honest with you. Some would say they probably don’t remember the trip, some remember every detail.
“Some guys remember that we went to Hometown Buffet. That’s what they remember.”
Butte (1-1) entered the season as the top-ranked team in the state, but it fell to No. 9 in the latest coaches poll after this past weekend’s 24-17 loss at Santa Rosa. That allowed CSM (2-0) to claim the top spot in Northern California and No. 2 in the state.
Not that it matters to Pollack.
“The problem is it’s people’s opinions,” he said. “And people’s opinions aren’t very accurate. That’s why the only poll that matters is the last one because that’s based on fact.”
CSM departs Friday afternoon for Saturday’s 1 p.m. contest at Oroville. It will be its second consecutive contest on grass, with elevated temperatures expect to rival last week’s game at Modesto College.
Again, not that it matters to Pollack.
“The travel to Butte and the grass field and this and that, the music they play at halftime, the issue is you’re going against a well-coached, quality, good-athlete team,” Pollack said.
The game ball on offense after the 51-26 win at Modesto went to quarterback Jeremy Cannon, who threw for three touchdowns and led the Bulldogs with 99 rushing yards on 16 carries, finding the end zone on a 28-yard burst in the first quarter. His coach feels the freshman is gaining a better feel for the veer option
“I thought he ran hard,” Pollack said. “He looked strong and explosive in the game.”
Cannon’s favorite target was Kevin Kutchera, who caught five balls for 105 yards, including two touchdowns. The 6-foot-2 sophomore is a former hurdler.
“Kevin is more fast than quick,” Pollack said. “When he gets going it doesn’t look like he’s going fast, but he’s running fast. He’s a long strider.”
Sophomore running back Durell Crooks (St. Francis-Mountain View) made his debut after sitting out last week with an undisclosed injury. He finished with 10 carries for 34 yards.
The game ball on defense went to safety Taylor Mashack (Menlo-Atherton), who had six tackles and two fumble recoveries.
After recording nine sacks in the season opener, CSM’s defense only brought down the Modesto quarterback twice. Inside linebacker Randy Allen, who had 4½ sacks in Week 1, was credited with half a sack Saturday.
“At this level, coaches adjust and you don’t let one person beat you,” Pollack said.
The final score was padded by three defensive touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The game was still very much in doubt as CSM trailed 19-10 before a touchdown pass with 16 seconds left in the second quarter sparked a run of 27 unanswered points.
Pollack attributed the sluggish start to a lack of focus.
“We needed a wake-up call,” he said. “We got it and we responded, but that was the learning moment out of that game. We can’t just show up, do a cheer and wear a CSM uniform and think people are going to fall down. It doesn’t happen. That was the message, plain and simple.”