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

College of San Mateo sophomore Keenan Smith picks up yards en route to rushing for a game-high 107 yards in Saturday’s 52-14 win over De Anza at College Heights Stadium. Photo by Patrick Nguyen.

College of San Mateo sophomore Keenan Smith picks up yards en route to rushing for a game-high 107 yards in Saturday’s 52-14 win over De Anza at College Heights Stadium. Photo by Patrick Nguyen.

Sustaining momentum has been problematic for the College of San Mateo Bulldogs this season to say the least. Following an explosive second quarter of offense in Saturday’s Bay 6 Conference opener, however, the Bulldogs are hoping to ride the wave of momentum into the thick of their conference schedule.

No. 24-ranked CSM (1-0 Bay 6, 3-3 overall) caught fire in the second quarter Saturday and kept adding to coast to a 52-14 win over De Anza College (0-1, 1-5) at College Heights Stadium.

Strong south winds blowing across the length of the field were prevalent throughout the afternoon, and the Bulldogs were able to capitalize with the forceful gusts at their backs, outscoring the Dons 21-7 in the second quarter.

From there, it didn’t seem to matter to the Bulldogs which direction they were going. After maintaining northbound possession to add 17 points in the third quarter, CSM scored 14 more playing into the wind in the fourth. The Bulldogs outgained De Anza in total offense 486-313 and held the Dons scoreless throughout the second half.

But the Bulldogs certainly don’t have the wind at their backs in terms of the structure of their schedule. They travel to unranked Contra Costa College next week before consecutive games against No. 14 City College of San Francisco and No. 3 Santa Rosa Junior College.

After heading into last week’s bye with a 2-3 non-conference schedule, CSM geared up for its uphill Bay 6 play schedule knowing full well winning the conference is the only viable ticket to the postseason.

“It’s all about just erasing the past,” CSM sophomore running back Keenan Smith said. “We come into league and just do our thing.”

CSM’s three losses have all been at the hands of ranked opponents — No. 15 Modesto, No. 16 Fresno and No. 6 American River. Bulldogs head coach Larry Owens is banking on the grueling non-conference schedule to pay dividends as his team heads into the heart of conference play.

“A thing we definitely have is the toughest schedule in the state of California,” Owens said. “Since the first game, you look at these teams, they’re all good teams. Sure, we’re playing up … but our schedule I think will help us to gain the momentum.”

CSM’s backfield provided more than a glimmer of hope Saturday. For the first time this season, the two-pronged ground attack of Smith and freshman Rashaan Fontenette got on track. The duo led the Bulldogs to 318 total rushing yards, with Smith leading the way with a game-high 107 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns. Fontenette added 98 yards on 11 carries.

One of three returning sophomore running backs, Smith was hampered by injury after opening the year with a season-high 151 rushing yards in a loss at Modesto. He sat the following week and has averaged 54.3 yards through his previous three games. Fontenette, meanwhile, emerged as a big-play back, as the true freshman stepped up during Smith’s Week 2 absence against Sierra to rush for a career-high 130 yards.

The in-team competition is now spurring results, according to Smith

“He makes me compete more,” Smith said. “I don’t want to have a freshman start over me, so his being there just makes me better. … It makes us compete for our team.”

Also returning to form was sophomore quarterback Ryan Brand, who sat due to injury Oct. 1 with sophomore Bobby Calmeyn getting most of the reps in the loss to American River. Saturday, the quarterbacks’ roles were reversed with Calmeyn sitting due to injury while Brand delivered a precise performance, completing 13 of 19 passes for 168 yards and three touchdowns.

The second-quarter shootout was sparked with CSM up against it. The Bulldogs faced fourth-and-11 from the De Anza 26-yard line on the opening play of the quarter, but Brand connected with sophomore Sione Finefeuiaki for a 15-yard pass and a first down. On the following play, Smith bounced off tackle for an 11-yard dash to the end zone, tying the game at 7-7.

Following a De Anza three-and-out, the Bulldogs went on the offensive again, marching 60 yards on eight plays to take the lead. Smith opened the drive with runs of 8, 4 and 9 yards before Fontenette sprinted through the middle for a 33-yard run to the De Anza 6-yard line. CSM got tripped up shy of the goal line on consecutive runs by Fontenette and Finefeuiaki, but sophomore fullback Joey Wood — nine carries for 50 yards — capped the scoring drive with a 2-yard blast to give the Bulldogs a 14-7 lead.

De Anza fired right back with a 12-play, 75-yard scoring drive as quarterback Zach Silva got cooking. The freshman converted a third-and-13 play from his own territory with a 39-yard strike to freshman Devin Johnson, advancing to the CSM 26-yard line. Then after the Dons spread the field while moving to the 16-yard line, Silva cashed in on a scoring scramble to tie it at 14-14.

Not to be outdone though, CSM’s offense came right back over the top with a swift scoring driving, marching 69 yards in 1 minute, 33 seconds.

Smith earned the initial first down with a 6-yard run off tackle, but came off the field due to a jarring face-mask penalty; he would return to start the second half. The personal foul moved the ball into Dons territory at the 42, and Fontenette took charge of the ground game with runs of 4 and 11 yards. Then on first down from the Dons 27, CSM freshman receiver Line Latu got free on a fly pattern and gathered a laser throw by Brand with a tremendous one-handed grab in stride for a 27-yard score, giving the Bulldogs a 21-14 lead.

“The way he throws the ball, there’s something about it that feels nice in my hands,” Latu said. “That’s what made me catch the ball.”

Indeed, the precision and velocity of Brand’s laser pass with two De Anza rushers leveling him as he released the ball was as impressive as Latu’s highlight-reel, Statue of Liberty grab.

“He’s a tough guy,” Latu said. “He’s actually taken a couple hits … where he’s fought back through these hits and just keeps pushing.”

CSM sophomore safety Kava Maka preserved the lead on the final play of the first half with an interception in the end zone. De Anza advanced the ball to the CSM 6-yard line on a nice 28-yard pass from Silva to Christian Rita with time enough for two plays. But after an incompletion, Silva looked to the back of the end zone for Khiry Savoy as time expired but Maka dashed in front on the attempt to produce the pick, his first of two on the day. He is currently tied for fifth in the state with four interceptions on the season.

Smith got the second-half scoring started with a 1-yard TD run. Freshman place kicker Cesar Silva added a 25-yard field goal and Eddie Polataivao closed the third quarter with a 9-yard rushing score. In the fourth quarter, Brand connected for two TD strikes, an 8-yard throw to Jonathan Herrera-Gaoteote and a 20-yarder to Polotaivao.