The numbers and early returns suggest that the College of San Mateo football team is ready for primetime — literally and figuratively.
After downing a pair of opponents in relatively effortless fashion (despite eight turnovers in the process) the Bulldogs move to Week 3 on the schedule on an upswing with a duel versus Diablo Valley College scheduled for a 7 p.m. start Friday in Concord.
“We definitely showed improvement from Week 1 to Week 2, which is really what you’re looking for,” said Tim Tulloch, CSM defensive coordinator and co-head coach.“The good teams, they always make strides. They identify the corrections that need to be made, address them and then fix them. And what happens is, you really start to see that foundation and growth as a team.”
Part of CSM’s foundation this year seems to be its depth. While turnovers and injuries forced a couple of moves in last Saturday’s 28-7 win over Chabot College, those who came in were ready for action and the Bulldogs didn’t miss a beat.
“That’s how you win games,” Tulloch said. “You get 11 guys playing together on the same page and they definitely took another step in that direction. It wasn’t a lack of effort — the guys were getting after it.”
There were plenty of examples of that Saturday. Defensively, the Bulldogs forced six turnovers. Offensively, George Naufahu ran all over Chabot to the tune of 140 yards on 20 carries. He also caught a touchdown pass.
But the play that had the coaching staff buzzing a couple of days later was running back Michael Latu’s forced fumble and offensive lineman Dominick Jackson’s recovery. On that play in the fourth quarter, CSM coughed up the ball in Chabot territory and the ball was scooped up by a Gladiator defender who started bolting toward the Bulldog end zone. Latu got on his horse though, and tracked him down at around the CSM 5-yard line, punching the ball out of the defender’s hand in the process. Jackson, who had hustled up the field as well, fell on the ball. In a matter of 60 yards, the CSM coaching staff had its rallying point for the week leading up to DVC.
“That was really symbolic because we preach, and we’ve been preaching this for years, how hard you play measures everything,” Tulloch said. “And that’s one of the goals, to impose your will on somebody. And you do that just down in and down out playing extremely hard.”
In DVC, CSM faces an opponent that is 0-2 this season — with losses against Santa Rosa and City College of San Francisco. Both defeats were by significant margins. On paper, the Vikings don’t seem like much of threat. They’re averaging just 41 yards rushing on offense and their 213.5 yards per game is last in the Mid-Empire Division.
“We take them one at a time,” Tulloch said of the DVC match-up. “And they have a ton of talent. They’re loaded with weapons. And I don’t think they’ve really fired on all cylinders yet. They improved from Week 1 to Week 2. We’re going to have our hands full on Friday. They do some things scheme wise that always pose challenges. They’re as talented as any team on the schedule. Just preparing for them is a challenge.”
On paper, it looks like CSM will have to prepare for the likes of Quinton Hill and Terrence Young — DVC’s two main aerial weapons.
Last season, the Vikings pushed CSM in the fourth quarter, scoring 14 points to make the outcome a little tighter. The Bulldogs won 35-29.
The Vikings surely know a thing or two about CSM — especially Quincy Nelson and Naufahu, who combined for over 100 yards of offense in last year’s game.
Another interesting scenario to look out for heading into Friday’s game is who starts at quarterback for CSM. Casey Wichman started the first two, but he was taken out in Saturday’s win after his third turnover. In came former Menlo-Atherton Bear Willy Fonua, who threw two touchdown passes and looked pretty sharp throwing the ball.
“They are really benefiting from that kind of competition,” Tulloch said. “They’re in fierce competition, but they’re also extremely close. They both know how to make the most out of it. Those two, there’s not one ounce of animosity. They’re both focused on the team which is just outstanding to see.”
In the team’s first match of the season, the Bulldogs fell to Delta College 13-8.
CSM started down and could never escape a 5-3, first-quarter goal deficit.
“This was not the start we wanted,” said CSM head coach Randy Wright. “I did learn more about this team, though, in one game than in weeks of practice. It’s time to move forward.”
Erica Staben paced the Bulldogs with three goals. Shelby Chung and Jasmine Zaldivar added two apiece.
CSM will play in the West Valley tournament Friday and Saturday. The Bulldogs begin the tournament with an 11:20 a.m. start against Modesto College.