The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
College of San Mateo quarterback Anthony Grigsby’s second career start at Bulldog Stadium was an auspicious homecoming.
The redshirt freshman led the Bulldogs (2-0) to their second straight win, 49-21 over College of the Sequoias, in Saturday’s home opener. CSM out-gained Sequoias 488-202 in total offense, and Grigsby (Cosumnes Oaks-Elk Grove) set the tone, completing 20 of 31 passes for 329 yards and five touchdowns.
Sophomore receiver Terence Loville (Serra) enjoyed a breakout performance, hauling in three catches for 104 yards and two touchdowns. But Grigsby spread the ball around nicely, using impressive field vision and a tight spiral to complete passes to eight different receivers. Sophomore Jonaven Kuhn (Carlmont) added six catches for 73 yards, freshman Anthony Freeman (Menlo-Atherton) totaled three catches for 64 yards, and Nico Caruso (Capuchino), Corey Le’aupepe (St. Patrick’s-New Zealand) and Jeremiah Patterson (James Logan-Union City) each had touchdown catches.
“Anthony Grigsby, he’s a dawg,” Freeman said. “He comes in, he knows the system very well, and we just execute. … Everybody is clicking on all cylinders, and we just do what we’re supposed to do.”
The last time Grigsby suited up on his home field was the 2022 opener when he was in a QB competition with quarterback Richie Watts. Grigsby sustained an injury in the 2022 opener and didn’t see action for the rest of the year, taking a redshirt season, while Watts went on to lead CSM to its first-ever state championship.
CSM head coach Tim Tulloch said it’s impossible to know how the quarterback competition would have played out if Grigsby stayed healthy. With Watts transferring to the NCAA Division I ranks on scholarship at the University of Buffalo, though, Grigsby is a perfect fit for the 2023 lineup.
“It’s hard to rewind history,” Tulloch said. “What I love is he is here and now with us. And what it did buy us is a little more time with him just watching tape and getting a deeper understanding of our offense. … I think that year, it was a year of development, and elite-level development, where he’s in every quarterback meeting, he’s watching tape after practice with us, he’s the last guy in the building. But just how many hours he’s logged, he did not take it like it was a year off.”
Grigsby was ready to go Saturday. His first pass of the Bulldogs’ game-opening drive timed an 18-yard curl route by KB Boone-Nelson (Inderkum-Sacramento) with a tight spiral. The next play saw Grigsby stay cool in the pocket for an extra beat or two before stepping up to deliver a 32-yard pass to Freeman. Two plays later, Grigsby hit Patterson on a short out route, with the sophomore receiver fighting across the pylon for an 11-yard score to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead.
Tulloch said Grigsby’s play-making ability put the Sequoias defense on its toes from the outset.
“It makes you have to defend the whole field,” Tulloch said. “So, our quarterback does a great job seeing the field. He understands where the space is, and he knows how to attack it and get the ball there and get the ball there on time. And when you have that, it puts defenses in a tough position.”
Then the CSM defense went to work.
Sequoias (0-2) was held to three-and-outs on each of its first two possessions. By the time the Giants earned their first first down near the end of the opening quarter, they were already trailing 14-0. By the time they sustained their first scoring drive, they were trailing by 21.
After Sequoias’ first three-and-out, CSM went on the march again. But following a 32-yard pickup on a Patterson catch and run, Grigsby threw errantly for an interception by Sequoias sophomore My’Quel Johnson. The Bulldogs defense gave Grigsby and company the ball right back, though, with another quick three-and-out. And this time, the freshman quarterback hit his mark, converting on third-and-4 from midfield with a 50-yard scoring pass on a fly up the left side by Loville to give the Bulldogs a 14-0 lead.
The Bulldogs continued moving the ball with impunity into the second quarter. Another Sequoias three-and-out gave the Bulldogs back possession at their own 39, with a 10-yard run by Nate Sanchez taking it across midfield, and a 12-yard keeper by Grigsby moving it to the 34. Then on first down from the Sequoias’ 22, Grigsby made his nicest play of the half, rolling to his weakside allowing Loville to get free on a cross route along the back of the end zone, with Grigsby throwing across his body to deliver a 22-yard scoring pass staking CSM to a 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
“Anthony sees the field as good as anybody I’ve ever coached,” CSM offensive coordinator Mike Dovenberg said. “He’s extremely football intelligent. He’s in the office early in the morning and late at night really figuring out how to be the best version of himself.”
The 21-point lead was precarious territory, though. A week earlier, in the Bulldogs’ season opener at Sierra College, they let a 20-point lead get away before having to come from behind in the fourth quarter for a dramatic 37-34 victory. Week 2 threatened the same as Sequoias answered with two touchdowns before the half — a 13-play, 61-yard drive capped by a 1-yard score from running back Dylan Gurule.
Freeman put the momentum back on the CSM sideline. On the ensuing kickoff — the final play of the first half — Freeman nearly broke a kickoff return, wrestling a loose ball at the CSM 15 before weaving through traffic and nearly taking it to the house before getting tripped up and taken down at the 9.
“I was kind of mad coming into halftime,” Freeman said. “I was pretty upset I didn’t run that back to give us that momentum boost going into halftime.”
It wouldn’t take long for Freeman to get a reprieve though.
“We kind of were all frantic,” CSM linebacker Finn Williams said. “They got that last touchdown in the first half. We came back, regrouped in the locker room, and we just knew if we did our job, we’d win.”
Sequoias’ special teams opened the second half with a big play early in the third quarter followed by a blocked punt by Richie Diaz for a scoop-and-score by Nick Nelson to make it 21-14. But the Bulldogs would course correct with two unanswered touchdowns in the third quarter.
“It was kind of like last week, we had to work through that big momentum swing in the fourth quarter,” Tulloch said. “This one, if there was something that happened — a blocked punt for a touchdown — we were able to get back in the groove and not make one thing become five or six things in a row. It was one, and then we got back on track.”
CSM forced a three-and-out at the Giants’ 21, and Freeman got the Bulldogs back on track with a dynamic punt return, sprinting 59 yards to the end zone to up the lead to 28-14.
“I owed us one and I definitely made up for that,” Freeman said, “and I definitely appreciate all my guys up front blocking for me. They made it happen.”
The return helped to relax the defense as well, as the Giants were held to two more three-and-outs, both of which the CSM offense turned around for scores.
“It’s a great return, hell of a return,” Williams said. “T-Free, Anthony Freeman, that’s a baller. He’ll be DI any day now. At the end of the day, it didn’t put any points on the board and we have to get back to it.”
A 48-yard touchdown strike from Grigsby to Caruso made it 35-14 in the third quarter, and a 22-yard scoring pass to Le’aupepe made it 42-14 at the start of the fourth. After Sequoias scored on an 18-yard run by Kenroy Higgins, backup quarterback Alex Grado (sophomore transfer from Riverside City College) entered to lead an eight-play, 58-yard scoring drive, capped by a 1-yard scoring run by Julius Tikiosuva (West-Tracy).
CSM redshirt freshman Raymond Price (Menlo-Atherton) quarterbacked the Bulldogs’ final series, going to the air once with a daring pass to the end zone that was intercepted by freshman Juan Rodriguez.
Dovenberg raved about Grigsby’s performance after the game, and rightfully so. Two games into the season, the redshirt freshman ranks fifth in the state with 619 passing yards, and seventh with a 176.7 quarterback efficiency. Last year, Watts ranked ninth in QB efficiency.
“Richie played great, won us a national title,” Dovenberg said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do but Anthony has a chance to be absolutely elite. They’re different guys, but the best version of any one of those guys in the room can win us a whole bunch of games.”