The College of San Mateo Bulldogs (11-1) have earned a return trip to the state capital for the California Community College Athletic Association championship game against defending state champion Fullerton College (12-0). The state championship will be played Dec. 9 at 1 p.m. at Sacramento City College’s Hughes Stadium.

The Bulldogs defeated American River College, 24-21, over the weekend in the Northern California Football Conference championship on Saturday night. CSM’s victory came after a 27-yard field goal attempt by American River College placekicker Julian Diaz with 20 seconds remaining sailed to the left of the uprights.

After a 10-10 halftime deadlock, Diaz had given the Beavers a 13-10 lead on a 27-yard field goal with 11:11 left in the third quarter. CSM responded quickly in that third period, immediately driving 80 yards to go ahead for good at 17-13 on a 1-yard TD run by Cameron Taylor, his second of the game. Taylor (a 5-8, 265-pound freshman out of San Mateo’s Hillsdale High) had all of the rushes in that drive and was the game’s top offensive player with 201 yards on 31 carries. He was accompanied on that drive by two long pass plays of 29 and 22 yards from Shawn Akina to Rajae Johnson.

Akina completed 9 of 18 passes for 136 yards – including a 29-yard TD pass to Jared Latu with 4:47 left in the third period for what proved to be the deciding points.

But American River drove for a fourth quarter score to get back in contention on a 5-yard TD run by quarterback Hunter Rodrigues, followed by a successful 2-point conversion pass to Jacob Sipes to close to 24-21 with 5:39 left. Following a CSM punt, the Beavers drive started their last drive on their own 36 with 2:58 left in the game. They reached the CSM 10 yard line before the potential tying field goal (on fourth and one) missed sending the game into overtime. San Mateo used its final time out just before the failed kick.

Taylor moved into a tie for second on CSM’s season scoring list with Julian Edelman (2005) and Mario Ballestrasse (1985), each with 17 touchdowns. The Bulldogs freshman out of Hillsdale High is two TDs shy of the record 19 set by George Naufahu in 2013. With 945 yards rushing, Taylor is just 55 yards short of becoming San Mateo’s seventh 1,000 yard rusher – on a list headed by Edelman’s 1,253 yards in 2005.

CSM sophomore kicker Justin Watts had a 32-yard field goal to cap CSM’s opening game drive and also kicked three extra points. His 88 points for the season ties the San Mateo kick-scoring record set by Kenny Anderson in 2011. Watts added to his San Mateo career record which is now 164 kicking points.

Fullerton is the defending state and national (poll) champion and is currently ranked No. 1 in the USA by JC Gridwire ( CSM was No. 4 nationally last week. The two teams ahead of the Bulldogs, Riverside and American River, lost over the weekend.

If you can’t make the game, be sure to check out the livestream of the game provided by SoCal College Sports!