The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
A season’s worth of expectations is now a reality for the College of San Mateo football team on the final weekend of the regular season: a chance to win a conference championship.
The Bulldogs host City College of San Francisco at 1 p.m. Saturday, the two remaining unbeaten teams in the National Bay 6 Conference, the winner of which not only takes the conference crown but automatically earns a spot in the Northern California regional semifinals.
“This is it. We control our own destiny,” said CSM head coach Tim Tulloch. “All the goals we set out at the beginning of the year, they’re right here before us.”
CSM (4-0 Bay 6, 7-2 overall), ranked No. 4 in the state by the JC Athletic Bureau Poll of Community College Football Coaches, got to this point with a dominant second-half performance against Chabot Saturday night. With the game tied at 7-all at halftime, the Bulldogs scored 17 third-quarter points to take control of the game.
“Tight first half. … Our guys played an OK first half,” Tulloch said. “Lot of passion in the locker room at halftime. … We played Bulldog football in the third quarter. I liked the way we responded.”
Quarterback Kamalii Akina continues to round into form after a long layoff with an injury. He completed 9 of 19 passes for 182 yards and a pair of scores in the win over the Gladiators, with both touchdowns coming in the second half.
“I really liked what he did in the second half,” Tulloch said of Akina. “The second half, [things] opened up. Once you can attack teams down the field … and in a lot of different ways … it opened things up.”
More importantly, the Bulldogs got contributions from players who haven’t had a lot of opportunity this season, which should only boost the team’s overall potential for the playoffs. Avery Runner, a freshman running back, got a season-high five carries Saturday and scored his third touchdown of the season. Wide receiver Elijah Harper had a season-high 101 receiving yards, doubled his touchdown total with two against Chabot and tied a season-high in catches with four.
“It gives you different ways to attack teams when you have different guys stepping up,” Tulloch said. “This entire year … it’s been a ‘next man up’ type of year.
“A lot of it comes from the preparation (during the week). (Practicing like you will start is) a must. Every guy, it doesn’t matter where you are on the depth chart, you never know when your number will be called. You have to prepare every day like it’s going to be your time and the guys have really embraced that.”
Standing between CSM and its third straight Bay 6 title is City College of San Francisco (4-0, 7-2). The Rams, ranked No. 5 in the state in the coaches’ poll, set up the showdown with the Bulldogs by beating up Santa Rosa last weekend, 62-14. They’re 14th in the state in scoring per game, averaging 37.4. QB Jack Newman has lit up opposing defenses this season, having thrown for 2,855 yards, with 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. RB DeShawn Collins averages 100 yards per game and has scored 10 times.
“They’re a good team. They always have a lot of talent. This year is no different,” Tulloch said. “We wouldn’t expect anything different than to play a very strong team to win a championship.”
While there is a lot on the line this weekend, Tulloch and the Bulldogs continue to treat it as just the next game and won’t worry about anything more than the Rams until after the game.
“We live under the mindset of wanting to go 1-0 (every week). This game is big because it’s next. It gives us a chance to be 5-0 and be outright conference champions and go into the playoffs with momentum,” Tulloch said. “(As for the playoffs) there are so many scenarios. It’s just something we don’t worry about. We’ll let all the prognosticators and polls and rankings, we’ll let the administrators, figure it out. We just need to prepare for San Francisco. That’s 100 percent of our focus.”
The JC Athletic Bureau reported that the Southern California Football Association has disciplined the Fullerton football program, forcing it to forfeit all nine regular-season wins this season and all 10 regular-season games in 2017, when it won the state title with a 16-12 win over CSM. The Hornets also forfeit the 2017 National Southern League championship.
The Orange County Register reported the program was found guilty of “subsidizing, inducements and special privileges for a CCCAA student-athlete.” The charges were announced earlier this season and the school’s appeal was denied over the weekend.