College of San Mateo running back George Naufahu stood stoically near the end zone after his team’s latest win with seemingly the entire Bulldog Universe wanting to congratulate him.
One by one, he shook hands, hugged bodies and smiled.
You would have never noticed from him demeanor the man had just made history.
From now on, Nov. 9 will be known as “George Naufahu Day” at CSM after the running back broke a 26-year-old school record by rushing for 229 yards during the Bulldogs’ 52-28 win over De Anza College. Naufahu, the former San Mateo High Bearcat, broke the mark on a four-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter — part of 31-carry afternoon for big No. 9.
“To be honest, it hasn’t really kicked in yet,” Naufahu said, taking a minute from his salutations to speak with the media after the game. “I just do what I had to do. The offensive line did great. It just hasn’t kicked in yet. All that matters to me is the win right now.”
Naufahu’s performance was a part of another statistically dominating effort by the Bulldogs. In beating the Dons, CSM rushed for 449 yards while amassing a total of 670. And if it wasn’t for a couple of early miscues when the Bulldogs turned the ball over early in the game, the margin of victory might have been greater.
“Staying disciplined [was the key],” said CSM quarterback Casey Wichman, who had another solid day under center for the Bulldogs. “We just had to keep competing and get the job done.”
Defensively, the Bulldogs put constant pressure on a dynamic De Anza passing attack that featured arguably the best receiver tandem in the NorCal conference. While the CSM defense bent to the tune of 346 yards passing, their greatest accomplishment came in containing those receivers for the majority of the game — that, and knocking De Anza quarterback Jake Singler out of the contest and forcing one of those receivers to assume the QB position thus eliminating a big-play threat.
“We just had to level pressure,” said defensive tackle Rika Levi. “We weren’t getting enough pressure outside of the pocket to make the quarterback step up. Our DBs were getting lost in the scramble drill a bit. We came out in the second half and they got a couple plays but nothing to make us break.”
CSM jumped out to a big lead and had ideas of putting the game away early. The Bulldogs went up 21-7 at the end of one quarter. On two of those touchdowns, Wichman hooked up perfectly with receiver Keven Kutchera for bombs of 45 and 53 yards. Sandwiched in between those scores was a Wichman 39-yard touchdown run.
“I had a lot of time and I had a lot of room to step into the pocket,” Wichman said of his TD tosses. “My line did a good job up front and Keven did a great job. Their guy got beat every time on the double clutch every time we ran that route. So, it was a matter of executing.”
But CSM’s flaws in the game reared their ugly head during that first half. The Bulldogs had a hard time holding on to the football. De Anza’s lone TD of the first period came on a 81-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown. And on two other occasions, drives were thwarted by the Bulldogs’ inability to hold on to the rock. It was those mistakes that allowed the Dons to roar all the way back to a 21-20 lead. A Scott Agee field goal gave CSM a slight 23-21 advantage at recess.
“It just gave us more chances to play,” Levi said, joking a bit. “Offense turns the ball over, we get a chance to make a highlight tape.”
“This group, we all know we can get the job done,” Wichman said. “We can’t hurt ourselves. So, it’s not hard for me to get everyone pumped up. All I have to say is, we’ll get them next time.”
To right that ship, the Bulldogs turned to Naufahu. And just like he has his entire career, the running back responded by gaining the tough yards. With CSM nursing that two-point lead, the third quarter saw the Bulldogs outscore the Dons 16-0 in the period. Naufahu scored the first of those touchdowns and, by the end of three periods, he had 197 yards rushing on 27 carries for an average of 7.3 per touch. He also had two catches for 19 yards.
“The coaches did a great job of seeing what was working,” Naufahu said. “Our O line executed. All I had to was run. It could have been any of our running backs. I was just the lucky one to be out there.”
The 39-21 lead increased with the Bulldogs never really threatened again by the Dons. CSM scored twice in the fourth, the latter of which came on a thrilling 71-yard pass from Wichman to Robert Johnson. But it was Naufahu’s 4-yard touchdown carry with 9:01 left in the game that catapulted him into the record books and will forever recognize him as one of CSM’s all-time greats.