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

Despite transferring 35 players to the next level, reigning state champions are ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll

CSM went 12-1 in 2022, winning the 3C2A state title and the mythical national championship. Photo by Patrick Nguyen.

CSM went 12-1 in 2022, winning the 3C2A state title and the mythical national championship. Photo by Patrick Nguyen.

Out with the old, in with the new.

The College of San Mateo Bulldogs made history last year, ascending to the program’s first California Community College Athletic Association state championship with a definitive 55-0 victory over Riverside College.

Of the 14 All-Bay 6 Conference honors earned by the 2022 Bulldogs, however, 12 were sophomores. And with quarterback Richie Watts transferring to University of Buffalo after his freshman season, only one All-Bay 6 player remains — punter Caleb Ojeda. The 2023 season opens Saturday at 1 p.m. in Rocklin in a non-conference meeting with Sierra College.

“We had a tremendous transfer class,” Bulldogs head coach Tim Tulloch said. “We signed 35 kids, 30 to Division I, and of those, the majority were sophomores … but the five freshmen were five of our best freshmen.”

The Bulldogs got some much-needed experience with a Division I kickback, though, in the person of former Serra playmaker Terrence Loville. The sophomore wide receiver transferred from San Jose State, where he appeared in five games over two seasons in 2021 and ’22. Now a redshirt sophomore, the 6-foot, 185-pound wide out will look to ignite the Bulldogs passing game.

“Terence Loville … he’s got such a high football IQ,” Tulloch said. “He really understands the game at a high, high level, and he’s just a great kid. Every day you walk off the practice field, and he’s made a handful of plays. So, we’re excited to see him go on Saturday.”

Who will be delivering the ball to Loville is still to be determined, Tulloch said.

The Bulldogs have minimal experience under center. Redshirt freshman quarterback Anthony Grigsby (Cosumnes Oaks-Stockton) is the odds-on favorite to take over, one year after Watts earned the job in a battle between the two for the starting QB job last season.

Grigsby saw his only action in Week 1 last year and was rock solid in a second-half battle ending in a 45-28 win over Sierra at Bulldog Stadium. The 5-11, 188-pound quarterback led the Bulldogs on a third-quarter drive that ultimately gave them a 17-13 lead. He’d go on to gain 91 total yards and two touchdowns, including a 7-of-9 passing clip for 77 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for another score.

It would be the only action Grigsby saw all season, though, while Watts went on to rank ninth in the state with a 158.2 quarterback efficiency, and 10th in completing 63.3% of his passes. Grigsby went on to take a redshirt.

Also competing for the quarterback job is freshman Alex Grado (Los Gatos) and redshirt freshman Rayomd Price (Menlo-Atherton).

“It’s been a hell of a competition this training camp, and all three have really impressed in … different phases. As we get down to it, we’ll cut it loose Saturday. Depending on the flow of the game, we’ll see who plays, and how much they play.”

On the other side of the ball, defensive tackle Soane Kolokihakaufisi (San Mateo) will be thrust into a starting role in the middle of the line. A rotation player last year, the 6-3, 285-pound sophomore will look to reestablish a CSM defense that allowed just 258.1 yards per game last season, ranking third in the state, and first in Northern California.

“We expect him to have a big impact on the season this year,” Tulloch said. “He’s had a great camp, extremely physical, extremely violent with the way he plays … and we expect him to be a force in the middle.”

Among CSM’s other freshman transfers were cornerback Demetrius Freeney (University of Miami) and wide receiver Jamai East (Oregon State).

“A lot of our top freshmen left as well, so it’s a younger group,” Tulloch said. “They don’t have a ton of game experience, but they’re talented, they’re hungry and they love to work. And when you have that, you always have a chance.”

The Bulldogs are no strangers to reinventing themselves and have plenty success to show for it in recent years. Since the Bay 6 was formed in 2014, CSM has posted a 35-5 conference record, and has won the Bay 6 championship in five of the last six seasons.

And it should come as no surprise, the reigning state champions are ranked No. 1 in the state in CCCAA football coaches preseason poll, conducted by the JC Athletic Bureau.