No. 1 meets No. 2 as unbeatens Riverside City and College of San Mateo meet for CCCAA Football Championship

No. 1 meets No. 2 as unbeatens Riverside City and College of San Mateo meet for CCCAA Football Championship

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BAKERSFIELD - One of two football teams with nearly 200 combined years of history will finally claim a first California Community College Athletic Association football championship on Dec. 14. Both College of San Mateo and Riverside City College bring their best ever won-loss records, 12-0, into Saturday’s 1 p.m. state and national title clash at Bakersfield College Memorial Stadium.

This is Riverside’s 99th year of football, starting in 1921. It is the 98th season for CSM, which began with a 5-0 team in 1922. That represents a combined 197 years of JC/CC football. Although CSM can account for 19 Super Bowl Rings dating to former players Bill Walsh and John Madden plus current SB MVP Julian Edelman, none of those former stars were able to deliver a state title.  

This will be San Mateo’s third appearance in the state finals. The Bulldogs came up marginally short twice in the past decade. In 2009 they hosted Mt. San Antonio College at College Heights Stadium and lost by a point, 7-6 (in the rain). In 2017 Fullerton posted a last minute 16-12 decision over the Bulldogs in Sacramento -- but later vacated the state title. The game was not forfeited, however, so San Mateo’s official 2017 record still reads 11-2 – the most official wins by a Bulldogs team prior to this year. San Mateo has won a school record 20 straight Bay 6 League games, sweeping the last four championships. (That surpassed the 18-game league win streak the Bulldogs had from 1959-62 under coach Doug Scovil.) San Mateo currently has a 15-game regular season win streak.  

CSM originally played in the California Coast Conference (along with senior colleges), winning a pair of championships, then won eight titles in the Northern California JC Conference – all under coach Murius S. McFadden from 1923 to 1949.

Riverside previously had 11-win seasons in 1989 (11-0) and 2018 (11-1). But this is the first time the Tigers have reached the state finals. There was no official state championship game in 1989, when Riverside defeated another undefeated SoCal team, El Camino, 21-14, in the Orange County Bowl. Riverside wound-up being voted No. 1 in the JC Athletic Bureau’s final coaches association state poll. 

Riverside competed for the Southern California Championship six times from 1930-35, winning titles over Glendale and Ventura those last two seasons. The Tigers have won nine league titles this decade (all but in 2012).

Riverside Coach Tom Craft has more than 100 wins at two different California CC’s, believed to be the first to accomplish that fete. He was 115-56-1 in 16 seasons at Palomar, including a state championship win in 1998 over City College of San Francisco. Craft just won his 100th game (and ninth league crown) in ten seasons at the Riverside helm (now 101-15). In between, he served as  offensive coordinator and later as head coach at San Diego State.  

Craft was the offensive coordinator at Mt. San Antonio College from 2007-09, with the Mounties reaching the state finals each year and winning the 2009 title – over San Mateo!

 --San Mateo coach Tim Tulloch was a defensive back for Coach Craft at Palomar in 1991, when the Comets defeated Chabot, 37-24, in the Merced Elks Bowl -- for what was called the “unofficial” state championship.

This will not be the first time that Tulloch has seen Craft on the other side of the ball in the state finals. Tulloch was defensive coordinator for the Bulldogs in that 2009 title game. Tulloch has coached at CSM since 1997 and is in his second year at the helm. He has a 20-3 record

The CCCAA conducted official state championships games from 1967-1974 and resumed them in 1997 (to the present). Coaches association ratings after bowl games determined the “No. 1 team” in the state in other seasons.

It came in 2013. Butte defeated Fullerton, 28-13.

San Mateo has the state’s only single digit defense, allowing just 9.7 points per game, while scoring at a 34.1 clip (a 24.4-point differential). CSM allows opponents only 239.0 yards per game, 93.8 on the ground and 145.2 through the air. Offensively balanced San Mateo rushes for 159.9 yards and passes for 194.5 yards, a total of 354.4 yards per game.

Offensive minded Riverside scores a prolific 51.2 points per game, averaging 523.3 total yards -- 328.8 passing and 194.6 rushing. Defensively the Tigers allow 16.8 points (34.4 differential) and 301.8 yards per game (81.0 rushing, 220.8 passing).

SAN MATEO - Unanimous All-Bay 6 League quarterback Luke Bottari directs the CSM offense. The 6-0, 190-pound freshman has completed 141 of 234 passes (60.3 per cent) for 2,039 yards and 18 touchdowns, with a 155.4 efficiency rating (and at one time had the state’s best National Division rating). He has also rushed for 254 yards, 2,293 total offense. (His former high school, Serra of San Mateo, is also playing for a state championship on Saturday and is Tom Brady’s alma mater.)

Unanimous All-Bay 6 running back Darrell Page, a 5-10, 210-pound freshman, has rushed for 897 yards (74.8 average) and led the Bay 6 with ten touchdowns.

Terrell Carter, who quarterbacked the Bulldogs in 2018, was a unanimous All-Bay 6 wide receiver this year, catching 46 passes for 647 yards and six scores; also averaging a NorCal pacesetting 32.9 yards on kickoff returns and 14.5 on punt returns (No. 2 in the north), including a TD. He has 1,101 all-purpose yards. The All-Bay 6 returner, however, is sophomore teammate Jermaine Jackson (5-9, 180) with 1,196 all-purpose yards. That includes 349 rushing, 571 on 40 pass receptions (5 TDs). He also has a 27.4 yard kickoff return average.

CSM also has the state’s most effective field goal kicker, Dylan Moghaddam, who has been perfect on the season (10 for 10). No other kicker has hit 100 per cent on that many kicks. He has been good on 95 per cent of PATs (40 of 42) to lead CSM in scoring with 70 points

RIVERSIDE – Freshman All-Southern League quarterback Jacob Barlage (6-1, 205) leads Riverside, completing 178 of 258 passes for 2,500 yards and 29 touchdowns for a state-leading 183.6 efficiency rating. He has rushed for 114 yards and seven scores – accounting for 36 TDs. Pacing the Tigers ground attack is All-Southern Thomas Kinslow (6-0, 205) with 616 yards on 87 carries (7.1 average) and six TDs.

Unanimous All-Southern wide receiver Giovanni Sanders (5-11, 190, frosh) has caught 54 passes for 817 yards and eight TDs. Sophomore slot receiver Dylan Laurent has 51 catches for 620 yards and six scores.

Riverside place kicker Ricardo Chavez has hit on six of seven field goals (long of 42) and 55 of 56 PAT attempts for 73 points.

San Mateo’s state-leading defense has accounted for seven touchdowns and 29 turnovers. They got a  “bonus” from sophomore linebacker Anuanu Tuiono, who since becoming a starter in November now leads the team in tackles with 47 and is averaging 7.8 per game. He had a pair of November pass interceptions (returned for 45 yards). Tuiono had eight solo tackles and two quarterback hurries, plus a forced fumble, in the NorCal title game against Modesto.

San Mateo’s top all-around defensive player has been unanimous All-Bay 6 defensive back Bennett Williams (6-1, 195, soph) with 41 tackles (5.5 for loss), two pass interceptions, three pass break-ups, and has forced two fumbles.

Riverside also touts its defense, led by Southern League defensive player of the year Kobey Fitzgerald, a 5-10, 200-pound sophomore linebacker. He has 55 tackles (25 solo). Unanimous All-Southern League safety Shawn Dourseau (5-11, 190, frosh) has six interceptions.  Riverside has forced at least one turnover in every game (34 total) and pitched a shutout.

The respected Massey computer rankings have the two teams nearly even. Massey currently favors its “new” No. 1, Riverside, to win by a point, 28-27. San Mateo was ranked No. 1 and Riverside No. 2 among all 125 JC/CC teams in the USA throughout most of November. The region finals, however, found the two switching positions, separated by just one collegiate rating point – heading into the state title game. The No. 3 team nationally, NJCAA champion Mississippi Gulf Coast (now 12-0), is 56 points back, followed by No. 4 Modesto JC (9-3) and No. 5 American River (8-3). Two of Modesto’s losses were to San Mateo, which also defeated American River.

LIVE WEBCAST: SoCal College Sports is producing a live webcast of Saturday’s title game. Link:

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA FOOTBALL CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP, Nov. 30 (at San Mateo): College of San Mateo 41, Modesto JC 0
NCFC Semifinal, Nov. 23 (at San Mateo): College of San Mateo 21, Fresno City College 0.

Riverside City College 68, College of the Canyons 21
SCFA Semifinal, Nov. 23 (at Riverside): Riverside 48, Mt. San Antonio 0

CCCAA CHAMPIONSHIP, Saturday, Dec. 14, 1 p.m.:
College of San Mateo (12-0) vs. Riverside City College (12-0).

(Fred Baer, CCCSIA)