The College of San Mateo football team must feel like its in the movie “Groundhog Day.”
For the second week is row, the Bulldogs find themselves matching up against a team they played — and beat —during the regular.
Last week, the top-ranked Bulldogs hosted Fresno City College in the semifinals of the Northern California playoffs. After beating the Rams 17-3 in Week 4, CSM shut out Fresno 21-0 last week.
In the Nor Cal finals — where the winner will go to play for the California Community College Athletic Association state championship — the Bulldogs will host Modesto for the second time this season at noon Saturday. Ranked fifth in the state, the Pirates were knocked off by CSM 35-12 in Week 5.
“More than anything, what it shows is the strength of our preseason, said CSM head coach Tim Tulloch. “A preseason gauntlet of a schedule.”
But that’s about where the similarities end because despite the final score, CSM (11-0) was outgained by Modesto (9-2) in that Week 5 tilt. The Bulldogs used a pair of kickoff returns for touchdowns — at the start of each half — to jump-start the victory.
Saturday, the Pirates will be, basically, at full strength. When the two met in the first week of October, Modesto was without its starting quarterback and top running back.
While Michael Ramos the running back was lost for the season with a broken leg, quarterback Danny Velasquez returned to the starting lineup the week after the CSM loss and guided the Pirates to a 4-1 finish to end the regular season and then helped Modesto to a 35-28 win over American River in the first round of the playoffs last weekend. Over his last six games, Velasquez has completed 57 percent of his passes, averaging 190 yards per game with seven touchdown passes. Just as important, Velasquez has been one of the best runners for the Pirates this season. In those six games, he’s rushed for 330 yards and five touchdowns — including a 211-yard, two-score performance in a 48-21 win over San Joaquin Delta in the regular-season finale.
“The biggest difference between now and then is their quarterback was hurt (in Week 5),” Tulloch said.
If there is another difference, however, is that the CSM defense might be even better then that midway meeting. The Bulldogs have given up 20 points only once this season — in the regular-season finale against the high-flying City College of San Francisco offense. Last week against Fresno, CSM shut out the Rams — who the Bulldogs allowed only a field goal in their first meeting.
“That’s what you hope for as a coach. Each week, you get a little bit better,” Tulloch said. “What you want to see is improvement.”
While the defense has led the way for the Bulldogs this season, the offense has been frighteningly efficient. Led by freshman quarterback Luke Bottari, the Bulldogs are averaging 200 yards passing per game, while Darryl Page has led a ground attack that is rushing for more than 150.
“ I think we’ve continued to evolve the offense,” Tulloch said. “As you get later in the season and guys have a better understanding of what we’re trying to do … you can put more the playbook in.
“Hopefully, we’ll be tougher to defend.”
Tulloch said it’s never easy to beat the same team twice in one season and Modesto makes that task infinitely tougher.
“I do believe these are the top two team in Northern California,” Tulloch said.
The conference awards were announced this week and the Bulldogs were well represented among the best the National Bay 6 Conference had to offer.
Starting at the top, Tulloch was named Coach of the Year for the second season in a row as he helped lead the Bulldogs to a fourth consecutive conference championship.
But Tulloch is under no illusion that he is solely responsible for the team’s success.
“This is a staff award,” Tulloch said. “The award is really a result of our staff, the way they work … the way they prepare … and the result of our players completely embracing the standards and the vision for the program.”
Between the lines, the Bulldogs had six players who were unanimous selections: Bottari (QB), Page (RB), Sam Langi (OL), Terrell Carter (WR), Hulu Ahoia (DL) and Bennett Williams (S).
Other all-conference selections include: Jermaine Jackson (WR), Sam Kanongata’a (DE), Akeal Lalaind (DB), Jason Lloyd (TE) and Trey Smith (S).