The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
The new saying about College of San Mateo’s freshman quarterback is going to gain a lot of steam.
“Jeremy Cannon has got a Cannon,” CSM wide receiver Kevin Kutchera said.
It’s fitting Kutchera is the first Bulldog to go on record saying so, as the sophomore receiver was Cannon’s most consistent target in CSM’s 31-3 win over College of the Siskiyous in Saturday’s season opener at College Heights Stadium.
After being out of football for four years, the 23-year-old Cannon made an auspicious collegiate debut Saturday, passing 10-for-18 for 252 yards and one touchdown on the afternoon. But for all that will be said about Cannon’s arm, he also impressed with his wheels, rushing for 50 yards on 10 carries.
Kutchera had four receptions for 135 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown strike on a picturesque deep fly pattern in the fourth quarter to cap the day’s scoring. Kutchera said he wasn’t entirely surprised at Cannon’s successful debut.
“It didn’t surprise me,” Kutchera said. “I knew he was going to do well. I didn’t know he was going to do this well.”
Although Kutchera was CSM’s leading receiver a year ago, the second-year starter stands to see a lot more opportunities this season with Cannon at the helm. As a freshman, Kutchera totaled 397 receiving yards in the Bulldogs’ run-intensive offense. One of four returning sophomores to the CSM receiving corps though, all the parts seem to be in place for Cannon to lead quite a different air offensive this season.
“Each year is different,” CSM head coach Bret Pollack said. “You play to your strengths. The receiving corps and Jeremy did a good job [Saturday]. Siskiyous was selling out to stop the run and … they were making it difficult in one area of their defense, but they were exposed in another area. Jeremy was able to hurt them on it.”
Cannon set a sturdy game tempo from the opening drive; and as the game progressed into the second half, CSM swiftly turned up the intensity. Ultimately, Cannon utilized all four receivers on the day.
“We have great receivers,” Cannon said. “The main thing is the O-line was giving me great protection. If you’re getting great protection, like my O-line gave me today, you can hit your receivers. All I do is just throw the ball and my receivers make great catches.”
CSM was deliberate in getting its proverbial feet on the ground though. The Bulldogs managed just three points through their first three possessions.
Freshman kicker Justin Watts booted a 30-yard field goal near the end of the first quarter to get CSM on the board. Then midway through the second quarter, the Bulldogs’ defense set up the lone touchdown of the first half when CSM linebacker Mosa Likio intercepted a pass from Siskiyous quarterback Kaden Culp, who was leveled while releasing the ball by Bulldogs rusher Adam Sagapolu to cause an errant throw.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, Cannon hit sophomore receiver Raeshawn Lee for a 58-yard pass play to the Siskiyous 1-yard line. CSM sophomore running back Michael Latu then punched in the touchdown to give the Bulldogs a 10-0 lead.
Latu carried the ball 17 times for 135 yards and added a second touchdown midway through the third quarter on a 1-yard score after two big-gainers by Cannon — a 37-yard strike to Kutchera to march into Siskiyous territory at the 34-yard line, followed by a 26-yard completion to Elias Vargas to the 1-yard line.
Latu also sprinted for a career-high 82-yard run to end the third quarter, setting up a 15-yard touchdown ramble by sophomore slot receiver D.J. Peluso.
Siskiyous’ lone score came near the end of the first half when kicker Taylor Grimmett booted a 26-yard field goal, which, at the time, closed CSM’s lead to 10-3. The Eagles managed just 112 total yards on the game, with CSM totaling 478 yards.
CSM’s defense showcased its depth, especially up front after defensive tackle Tevita Taungahahifo was lost to a knee injury on the first Siskiyous possession. Pollack said the injury looked significant enough that Taungahahifo will likely miss several games. CSM was already down a defensive lineman with Anthony Ameperosa out for the week due to injury. Pollack said Ameperosa is expected to return this coming Saturday for when the Bulldogs travel to Modesto.
“A couple of dudes went down on our D-line this week … so some of us had to step it up,” CSM defensive tackle Cody Brown said. “We had a good rotation going this week. We all felt fresh. I could tell their O-line was getting discouraged because they couldn’t put points on the board, which made it easier for us. Their O-line fought tough, but I think our D-line kind of dominated most of the game.”
The realignment on the defensive line opened the door Brown, and the former Serra star helped smash it open for CSM’s linebacker corps. Bulldogs sophomore linebacker Randy Allen shined with a career-high four-and-a-half sacks, including getting in on back-to-back sacks to end the third quarter. As a team, the Bulldogs totaled nine sacks on the day.
“The defensive linemen allowed me to get to the quarterback and I was able to get one-on-one matchups,” Allen said.
For Allen, it has been a long time coming getting back onto the field. At the outset of the 2013 season, he endured a knee injury which forced him to take a medical redshirt after undergoing season-ending surgery on Oct. 19. He didn’t resume football activities until January.
According to Allen, it was the first serious injury of his football career after starring as a two-way player at Sacramento’s Inderkum High School. A former All-Tri-County Conference tight end, he also played defensive end. He made the transition to linebacker as a collegian.
Allen gave high praise to inside linebacker Darius Henton — Allen referred to his teammate as “the real deal” — as Henton had two key stops during an epic goal-line stand toward the end of the first half. Siskiyous recovered a Latu fumble deep in CSM territory, taking over in prime striking range at the 3-yard line.
On first down, Siskiyous tried to run up the gut, but the Bulldogs stacked the defensive line with six bodies on the short goal-line look, and nose tackle Gil Niko dove low with defensive end Kenny Hazewood going high to hit Connor Schrader for no gain. On second down, Henton got into the backfield to sack Culp for an 8-yard loss. On third down, Henton again chased down Culp as he scrambled for a 1-yard gain. Siskiyous settled for the field goal on fourth down. It was the Eagles’ lone score of the game.
The win marks the third consecutive year CSM has won its opener — just like clockwork, according to Kutchera.
“Just do our job and win,” Kutchera said of CSM’s strategy. “Executing the little things and stick to the fundamentals is something our coaches always say. Don’t get out there and get too excited and forget what you’re taught all week. Just stick to fundamentals and the rest will take care of itself.”
The Bulldogs take to the road for two weeks, with a 6 p.m. kickoff Saturday at Modesto, followed by a Sept. 20 clash with reigning state-champion Butte at 1 p.m. CSM returns home Sept. 27 at 1 p.m. to take on San Joaquin Delta.