The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
College of San Mateo record-setting freshman Ramiah Marshall has his sights set on Round 2.
Although CSM dropped its regular-season finale 42-24 to City College of San Francisco Saturday at College Heights Stadium, there was still good news regarding the postseason. The Bulldogs not only secured the lone at-large playoff berth in the Northern California field of four playoff-bound teams, they also managed home-field advantage.
As the No. 2-ranked team in Northern California — behind Bay 6 Conference champion CCSF — CSM will host No. 3 Chabot in Saturday’s Bulldog Bowl at 1 p.m.
But Marshall — after obliterating the CSM single-game record with 279 return yards Saturday — was already looking forward to a possible rematch with CCSF.
“The season is just now starting,” Marshall said. “That (loss) was practice right there. … Now we’re in the playoffs. Now we have to go to their house and do the same thing to them.”
There were plenty of mistakes for the Bulldogs to learn from in Round 1. The Rams’ offense outworked CSM 495-359 in total yards, but the difference was two interceptions by Bulldogs quarterback Dru Brown and four dropped passes by his receiver corps.
“[Brown] did a good job,” CSM head coach Bret Pollack said. “He had some dropped balls, so it was tough on him. … We didn’t give him the best chance.”
CCSF took full advantage, as freshman quarterback Anthony Gordon dazzled, even without his favorite target, Serra grad Easop Winston, who was hobbled by an ankle injury. Gordon still completed 16-of-29 passes for 238 yards and a career-high six touchdown passes. Rams sophomore running back Elijah Dale was also a force, rushing 21 times for a career-high 234 yards.
Although the Bulldogs never led in the game, they were within striking distance at halftime. Gordon had given the Rams some breathing room with 2:36 to go in the first half, hitting Thomas Buntenbah for an 11-yard touchdown to put CCSF up 21-10.
But the Bulldogs answered right back, as Brown bombed two consecutive passes to produce a quick strike. Starting from the CSM 25-yard line, Brown hit Miles Willis with a 38-yard pass to move into Rams territory. Then Brown aired it out to freshman Chikwado Nzerem for a 37-yard scoring pass to close the lead to 21-17.
The Rams dominated the third quarter though, especially defensively. While Gordon gave CCSF a three-possession lead with a pair of touchdown passes in the third quarter, the Rams’ defense allowed just one first down. And even with CSM starting its final possession of the quarter at the CCSF 6-yard line — thanks to a 93-yard kickoff return by Marshall — the Bulldogs could not find the end zone.
Instead, the Rams turned in a gritty goal-line stand, capped by a stop on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line by Pacifica native Nick Pierotti, as the sophomore linebacker out of Terra Nova stopped Brown’s inside bootleg attempt for no gain.
“Going into the second half they made some adjustments and shut us down,” Pollack said.
Come the fourth quarter, Marshall refused to back down. On the Rams’ ensuing possession, the CSM defense held them to a three-and-out. Then Marshall took a punt return bursting 57 yards for a touchdown, to close the score to 35-24.
“I had to come out and set a tempo for the team,” Marshall said. “In my mind, we weren’t going to lose.”
CCSF got wise, though, and didn’t allow Marshall to return another punt, with the last three by the Rams going out of bounds. The one possession on which they didn’t punt, Gordon absorbed the rush to throw a perfect spiral on a fly pattern to Buntenbah for a 70-yard touchdown to seal the victory.
“A lot of their passes were getting out a lot quicker than our blitzes would develop,” CSM linebacker Mikias Alipate said. “We still had pop. We just couldn’t get there quick enough.”
Gordon — a two-sport athlete who also plays baseball — was heavily recruited by CSM. It was a tough sell, however, as the Terra Nova product’s father Ryan also quarterbacked at CCSF.
“I have City blood in me,” Gordon said. “My dad played there 20 years ago. CSM showed me a lot of love, but in my mind, there was no doubt I was coming to City College.”
Gordon is embracing the CCSF swagger as well. Amid a 7-7 tie in the second quarter, he hit Antoine Porter with a 19-yard touchdown pass to take the lead for good. And Gordon punctuated the scoring strike by taunting the Bulldogs, glaring towards the CSM sideline while fist pumping repeatedly as he jogged to the end zone to celebrate.
“That’s kind of what City College is about,” Gordon said. “A lot of people don’t like our playing style, but that’s why guys come to play at City.”
Gordon has put his money where his fist pumps are this season though as he finished fourth in the state with 2,937 passing yards on the regular season.
Coincidently, Gordon’s former Joe DiMaggio League baseball coach Bryan Powers is now a CSM football assistant coach, working with kickers and returners. And now, Powers’ best speedster, Marshall, is making a case as an eventual Division-I transfer, despite his slight 5-7, 150-pound frame.
“He’s a D-I athlete,” Powers said. “No doubt about that.”