The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
College of San Mateo continued its dominance in the Bothman Bulldog Bowl with a 30-20 win over Laney College Saturday at College Heights Stadium.
One of 13 bowl games held by the California Community College Athletic Association, it marks the end of a bittersweet season of CSM. The Bulldogs finished the year with a 9-2 record, though their second loss on the final day of the regular season – a 23-7 defeat at the hands of City College of San Francisco for the Bay 6 League championship – cost CSM a berth in “The Four,” Bulldogs head coach Bret Pollack’s colloquial phrase for the playoff bracket of four Northern California postseason qualifiers.
For the second straight year, CSM didn’t qualify for the playoff bracket despite owning one of the top four overall records in Northern California. Last year the Bulldogs had the second-best overall record while this year they had the third.
As a consolation, CSM improved its all-time record in Bulldog Bowl play to 8-1 with a comeback victory over Laney (6-5) – an opponent chosen by the five-person CCCAA bowl committee, according to Pollack.
Laney held a 7-0 lead at halftime, but CSM got its offense rolling with three consecutive touchdowns in the second half to take the lead for good. The Bulldogs outgained Laney 412-121 in total yards on the day.
CSM freshman Michael Allen had a career-day out of the backfield. Entering into the game with 158 yards rushing on the season, the Jefferson alum ran for a career-high 113 yards on 25 carries. Sophomore Michael Latu added 94 yards on 11 yards. Laney ran for a net total of minus-45 yards on the day, a new CSM record.
Allen entered into the backfield rotation in the second quarter amid a scoreless tie. He and quarterback Jeremy Cannon – on in place of starting backup Justin Burgess – moved the ball to the CSM 40-yard line with just over one minute remaining in the half. But on third-and-6 with Cannon dropping back to pass, Laney’s Demareyeh Lane blitzed effectively and stripped the ball, picked it up and ran for a touchdown to stake Laney to a 7-0 lead.
In the second half, the CSM pass rush returned the favor by setting up the Bulldogs’ first score. Sophomore linebacker Mosa Likio dropped Laney quarterback Kurt Palandech on third down, forcing the Eagles to punt.
With Burgess back at quarterback, CSM crossed midfield on the first play of the drive with a 21-yard catch by Kevin Kutchera. After the run game moved the ball to the Laney 10-yard line, Burgess connected with Kutchera for a 10-yard touchdown to tie it.
On the ensuing kickoff, CSM freshman Keith Marcus came up with a fumble recovery on a strip by Mister Marshall-Cotton. On the first play of the drive, Burgess found Kutchera again for a 35-yard touchdown.
Kutchera finished the year with 841 receiving yards and seven touchdown catches. He also had one rushing touchdown Nov. 8 against Diablo Valley.
Sophomore running back Sammy Fanua added CSM’s third score on the opening drive of the fourth quarter. Latu opened the drive with a 35-yard run. Allen rushed for gains of 8 and 5 yards. Latu then advanced the ball to the Laney 4-yard line with a 15-yard run. Fanua punched it in on the next play to give the Bulldogs a 21-7 lead.
The score loomed large as Laney mounted a comeback which resulted in a chance to tie the game. After a 17-yard touchdown reception by Leroy Taylor made it 21-14, the Eagles’ Michael Adams blocked a CSM punt and saw Ryan Gordon recover it to find the end zone, closing the score to 21-20. Laney’s point-after attempt floated wide left though to keep CSM in the lead.
The Bulldogs would add to their lead with a safety on a quarterback sack by Adam Sagapolu. The sophomore defensive end had 8 1/2 sacks on the season. The Bulldogs had 10 sacks on the day with three from sophomore linebacker Willie Mays. Randy Allen led the team this season with 9 1/2 sacks, ranking 14th in the state.
With just over a minute remaining in the game and Cannon back under center, CSM marched downfield again. The Bulldogs advanced by virtue of six straight rushes, capped by a 15-yard run by Durrell Crooks.
The game – and the season – ended on Mays’ fourth sack of the year.
Likio had a team-high 10 tackles and added two sacks as the sophomore was named Bulldog Bowl MVP.
The 10-point margin of victory made for the closest in a Bulldog Bowl since 2010, when CSM defeated College of the Sequoias 27-20. Last year, the Bulldogs downed American River in the season-finale bowl game 75-9.