The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
With the College of San Mateo Bulldogs scheduled to finalize their 2017 roster Sunday, many questions still remain for head coach Larry Owens and his coaching staff.
With Thursday’s first official scrimmage in the books though — an afternoon matchup with Laney College at College Heights Stadium — it is clear CSM has its sights set on being the big-play Bulldogs.
Sophomore receiver Line Latu (San Mateo HS) turned two short stunt passes into explosive touchdowns with approximately 100 cumulative yards gained after the catch between the two plays. Freshman running back Cameron Taylor (Hillsdale) also broke off a long TD run.
With each of the scores, the sideline converged on the hero of the moment with an enthusiasm CSM figures to see plenty this season, as the Bulldogs look to repeat as Bay 6 Conference champions. Owens, however, was more critical of the fundamentals than excited with the big-play output.
“You can’t rely on those,” Owens said. “You have to rely on the little things.”
Owens listed a litany of concerns after Thursday’s scrimmage, from bad snaps, to penalties, to wrong gap alignment and coverage busts.
The 2016 season — Owens first back at CSM’s helm since stepping down after a nearly two-decade long tenure in 2008 — saw plenty of growing pains as well, with the Bulldogs going 2-3 through the first half of the year before finishing the regular season on a five-game winning streak.
Owens faces a similar conundrum as he did last year at the quarterback position as well. Much like last season, three quarterbacks are still vying for the starting job with the Sept. 2 opener just over a week away. At least with last year’s group, Owens and offensive coordinator Bret Pollack had two sophomores in the mix. This year, the Bulldogs QB lot is composed of a trio of freshmen.
“We’ll see,” Owens said of the QB competition. “We’re going to have a young quarterback no matter what. And that’s hard.”
The three QBs are Matt Adamkiewicz, a Division III bounce-back from Redlands University out of Christopher High School; Kamalii Akina, who threw for 1,289 yards his senior season at St. Francis in 2015; and Miles Kendrick, who threw for slightly less than Akina with 1,029 yards at Valley Christian in 2016.
For the record, Adamkiewicz threw for 1,783 yards as a senior in 2015, but his previous season as a junior racked up 3,310 passing yards to lead Christopher to its first Monterey League championship since 2011.
The quarterback quandary is contrasted by some decent depth on the offensive line, even with 2016 All-California Region I first-team offensive tackle George Moore transferring to University of Oregon after his freshman season.
Guard Api Mane (Menlo-Atherton) and tackle Eddie Tatola (Sequoia) will serve as the cornerstone sophomores. Tatola is something of a new addition as he played in just two games last season, suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 2 against Sierra.
“Once we get our offensive line going, everyone else is going to shine,” Owens said.
On defensive coordinator Tim Tulloch’s side of the ball, CSM features quite the San Mateo County contingent in the linebacker corps, but sophomores Dorrzell Hicks (Grant-Sacramento) and Colt Doughty (Los Gatos) will anchor the defense at middle linebacker after the tandem finished one-two in the team-lead in tackles last season.
With sophomore Bubba Tongamoa (Aragon), freshman TC Lavulo (Serra) and freshman Sione Halaapiapi (Woodside) all in the mix though, the county tackling quotient could well be strong in 2017. Tongamoa and Halaapiapi each had big moments Thursday, while Lavulo has yet to suit up for CSM due to injury since official practices began two weeks ago. Owens, though, said he would like to see Lavulo contribute this season, though there is no timetable for his return.
In the secondary, last year’s starting cornerbacks Deon White (Chavez-Stockton) and Jordan Hendy (Fremont-Sunnyvale) each return. The two combined for five interceptions last year. White, though, is expected to transition to safety this season.
CSM’s season opener is slated for Saturday, Sept. 2 against Modesto at College Heights Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.