The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
One week it is a quiet bus ride back from Modesto, the next week a joyous party in the postgame locker room for the College of San Mateo Bulldogs.
The No. 18-ranked Bulldogs (1-1 overall) earned their postgame celebration with their first win of the season, a 69-20 romp over Sierra College Saturday at College Heights Stadium.
After falling behind by a touchdown early, CSM rallied for 48 straight points, relying on a swarming secondary that produced three interceptions on defense and a quarterback platoon that paced the offense to 557 total yards.
“Especially last week after a tough loss, we wanted to come out and prove to everybody we can play,” CSM guard Adagio Lopeti said.
After three stalled drives to open the game, the CSM offense opened up a balanced attack. Freshman running back Rahsaan Fontenette broke out for game-high 130 yards on 14 carries on the ground. By air, sophomore Bobby Calmeyn and transfer sophomore Ryan Brand combined for 210 passing yards, with Brand — a Division I transfer from Air Force — enjoying his CSM debut by rushing for 58 yards on 10 carries with two touchdowns.
The foundation of the Bulldogs’ multi-faceted offensive attack was the performance of the interior offensive line, fronted by a pair of guards out of rival San Mateo County high schools. Lopeti, a grayshirt freshman left guard, hails from Woodside, while right guard Eddie Tatola — one of just two sophomores starting on the offensive line — graduated from neighboring Sequoia.
After CSM failed to net any yards with bread-and-butter draw plays through its first three possessions — the Bulldogs went to the draw five times for gains of minus-2, 0, minus-1, minus-3 and 0 — Lopeti and Tatola buckled down to seal off the middle and allow the Bulldogs’ skill players to take over the game.
“It all comes down to assignments,” Lopeti said. “If we get our assignments down, those little trick plays and blitzes, we can pick those up.”
On the other side of the ball, it was one key defensive assignment that turned the tide of an early Sierra advantage. The Wolverines (0-2) got on the board in the first quarter thanks to the efficient slant throws by quarterback Adam Besana. The 6-5 freshman capped Sierra’s second drive of the game with a 38-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Short to take a 6-0 lead.
When Sierra attempted a little trickery later in the quarter though, the complexion of the game changed big time.
After a Wolverines sack of Brand on fourth-and-1 in the red zone stifled the third straight possession for CSM, Sierra marched back the other way to move the ball to the Bulldogs 38-yard line. But when receiver Romello Bentley took a handoff around end and attempted an option pass downfield to Small, CSM freshman cornerback Jordan Hendy stuck with the target and batted the pass up for an interception by freshman linebacker Dorrzel Hicks.
Freshman Deon White and sophomore Kava Maka would go on to add interceptions for CSM, while sophomore safety Josh Clarke defended plays in his direction all day to anchor a secondary that flustered the Sierra passing game throughout. But it was Hicks’ interception that was the stamp of the day by bringing to light the foremost philosophy of CSM defensive coordinator Tim Tulloch.
“Get big plays,” Clarke said of that philosophy. “Make an interception or get a strip or something. … So when we got that interception, that’s when we were able to turn it around.”
With Hicks’ interception returned to the 50, and a 15-yard personal foul penalty by Sierra tacked on, the Bulldogs offense launched an all-out assault. Calmeyn went to the air on all four of the ensuing plays, capped by on 11-yard out pass to 6-foot, 245-pound sophomore fullback Sione Finefeuiaki who scored an impressive touchdown.
Finefeuiaki neared the pylon at the corner of the end zone and went airborne, looking as though he was pushed wide of breaking the plain of the goal. But the big sophomore was mindful to wrap the ball around the pylons as he flew by, earning the score to give CSM a 7-6 lead.
“It was 6-0 and it was just one of those things — you had to get it done,” Finefeuiaki said.
The score marked the first of seven straight possessions on which the Bulldogs converted, spanning into the second half. Sophomore slot receiver Ramiah Marshall added consecutive touchdowns in the second quarter, one on a 28-yard run on an end around, the next on a 28-yard reception from Calmeyn with secondary yardage that showcased the sophomore’s unique combination of speed and strength.
Sophomore fullback Joey Wood added a 17-yard touchdown run to end the first half. Fontenette opened the second half with a pair of third-quarter scoring runs of 9 and 16 yards.
CSM head coach Larry Owens cited the first quarter as the when the Bulldogs changed the complexion of the game.
“I think a couple things changed it,” Owens said. “We made a couple plays during that stretch; that helped us. And they missed a couple things.”
At the quarterback spot, Calmeyn — 8-of-13 passing for 131 yards — earned his second consecutive start. After Calmeyn took every snap from center during Week 1 in a 37-27 loss at Modesto, he split time with Brand in Saturday’s win.
Brand’s adrenaline seemed to get the best of him in the first half, as he missed several open passing targets with overthrows. In the second half, though, he settled in with several nice strikes to go 4 of 7 for 79 yards on the day; but it was his fourth-quarter scoring scampers of 23 and 19 yards that impressed most.
“I think [Calmeyn and Brand] are going to improve and are both going to challenge each other,” Owens said.
Owens said he is content to see the QB platoon flourish over the course of the season.
“I hope it does,” Owens said. “We want to use both of their unique talents and take advantage of them.”
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