The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.

While every team has a main goal of winning a championship, many teams will break down a season into a number of intermediate goals to achieve throughout the season, which hopefully culminates in titles.

The College of San Mateo is no different. But this week the Bulldogs have a chance to go for Main Goal No. 1 — winning a conference championship.

Saturday, CSM will travel to City College of San Francisco for a 1 p.m. kickoff with the National Bay 6 Conference title on the line — along with a spot in the Northern California playoffs for a chance to play in the state championship, which is the Bulldogs’ ultimate goal.

“It’s why you come to CSM. You come to play at this level. There is no doubt these teams are the two of the top four in Northern California, I don’t care how you slice it,” said CSM coach Bret Pollack.

And you couldn’t ask for more two evenly matched teams playing for the title. Both are 4-0 in conference play and their only losses on the season have come to American River.

Additionally, both teams, offensively, can beat opponents via the run or the pass. In previous years, the Rams used a spread, pass-heavy scheme, using four and five wide years before it became de rigueur in the game.

Pollack said in a win over Santa Rosa, CCSF went with a pass-first attack. Against Diablo Valley College two weeks ago, the Rams tried to run the ball.

“They hardly threw to their receivers,” Pollack said. “Their strength is their offensive line. Their strength is their tight end. You have to find out pretty quickly in the game when San Francisco identifies your weakness and then you have to protect that.”

The Bulldogs, however, gave the Rams a lot of looks for which to study as CSM put together arguably its best offensive efforts of the season in a 50-21 win over DVC Saturday. The Bulldogs racked 588 yards of total offense, a season high. Justin Burgess threw for 239 yards, with receiver Elias Vargas catching for passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns. Michael Latu paced the ground attack with 92 yards and a pair of scores.

“Every game is not the same, even though we have the same pieces,” Pollack said. “Each game has its own weaknesses and strengths. … This game (against DVC), we had a good matchup with Vargas … and we attacked that.”

San Francisco is coming off a 67-17 win over De Anza last week. The Rams also went over the 500-yard mark in total offense.

Defensively, however, the Rams have been stout in conference play, allowing just 38 points over their last four games combined.

Regardless of what is riding on the game, Pollack said nothing changes in the Bulldogs’ physical and mental preparation.

“This is the next game. Here it is,” Pollack said.


Playoff scenarios

The Northern California playoffs were thrown into a bit of flux after last weekend, putting even more emphasis on the CSM-CCSF game Saturday.

American River, which beat both San Mateo and San Francisco this season, was knocked off by Butte 31-28, giving the Roadrunners the inside track to the National-NorCal Conference title and one of the four Nor Cal playoff spots. The CSM-CCSF winner gets a second spot and either Laney-Oakland or Chabot-Hayward would get a third spot as the National-Valley Conference champion, leaving just the wild-card berth left.

If American River wins its season finale, it will get the final semi-final bid and the CSM-CCSF loser would be relegated to one of five bowl games in Northern California and its chance to play for a state title would be gone.

If the Beavers loses, both CSM and CCSF would advance — one as conference champion, one as the wild-card entry with a better conference record than American River.

CSM coach Bret Pollack, however, is not even thinking about that stuff right now.

“ I’m aware of all the scenarios,” Pollack said. “It’s all just prognostications.”


Women’s polo finishes third at conference tournament

The College of San Mateo women’s water polo team ended its season over the weekend, but finished on a high note, beating Merced 16-3 to take third place at the Coast Conference tournament.

“We finished strong. The last three weeks we played good water polo,” said CSM coach Randy Wright. “My first six years, we got abused by Merced. 16-3 is quite a wallop.”

The Bulldogs, which finished third during the regular season, opened the tournament with an easy 19-2 win over De Anza to advance to the semifinals against West Valley — the regular-season runner up.

West Valley ended CSM’s hopes of possibly qualifying for the Nor Cal tournament with an 11-7 loss.

Despite falling short of a conference tournament title, Wright was pleased with his team’s performance this season. He had two players — Tayler O’Conner and Shelby Chung — each score more than 80 goals this season. O’Conner and Chung were also first-team all-conference selections, while O’Conner went on to garner All-American and all-Northern California accolades as well. Chung was named to the second-team all-Nor Cal team, while Casey Johnson was a second-team all-conference selection. Goaltender Ashley Mullany was an all-conference honorable mention.

“Starting out with six players and finishing where we finished, it was a nice year,” Wright said.