Posted: Dec 14, 2019
BAKERSFIELD – Riverside City College took advantage of three first half miscues by College of San Mateo to take a 24-7 halftime lead and claim its first California Community College Athletic Association football championship, 31-14, Saturday afternoon at Bakersfield College Memorial Stadium.
Riverside quarterback Jacob Barlage completed 22 or 31 passes for 286 yards and a touchdown to earn game MVP honors. The Tigers won the battle of unbeaten teams that came in 12-0 and ranked No. 1 and 2 in the state and country.
The Bulldogs had taken an early 7-0 lead on a 6-yard run by quarterback Luke Bottari to complete a 71-yard drive but could not maintain that early momentum. A CSM lost fumble, a bad hold on a field goal attempt, and pass interception led to all the points Riverside needed in the second quarter.
After being limited to a first quarter field goal, the Tigers took the lead when Riverside's Isaia PaoPao forced a Bulldogs fumble on their own 18, which was recovered by Zach Burrola. Riverside running back Thomas Kinslow ran the final 16 yards for a 10-7 advantage with 12:14 left in the second quarter.
San Mateo threatened to return the favor minutes later when Akeal Lailand forced Riverside to fumble on its own 30, with Tevita Tuitavake recovering for the Bulldogs. San Mateo got as far as the 20 before settling for a 36-yard field goal by ace kicker Connor Sullivan, who had been perfect (10 for 10) on the season. A bad hold contributed to the ball missing to the left.
Riverside took advantage, marching 80 yards to go up, 17-7, on Barlage's 29-yard strike to Reggie Retzlaff with 6:18 left in the period, and those were the eventual winning points.
CSM's aspirations of getting back into it before halftime were thwarted by Shawn Dourseau's interception of a Bottari pass, returning it 28 yards to the Bulldogs 39 with 54 seconds left. Barlage drove the Tigers to the one and Cameron Bausley rushed it into the end zone as time expired.
San Mateo started a comeback in the third quarter, stopping Riverside at the goal line with a pass interception in the end zone by Trey Smith, then marching the length of the field to score on Bottari's 1-yard keeper with 2:13 left in the third quarter and close to 24-14.
The Bulldogs state-leading defense (9.7 points per game) did not give up another offensive score, while the Riverside defense also stepped up.
A pick six sealed it in the fourth quarter. Ray Estes intercepted Bottari, who was trying to maneuver in his own end zone, then easily returned the ball seven yards to make it 31-14 with 4:50 left in the game.
Riverside wide receiver Dylan Laurent was the offensive player of the game with seven receptions for 124 yards, including a long of 44 yards. The Bob Stangel defensive player of the game was Riverside linebacker Kobey Fitzgerald, with five tackles and a quarterback hurry.
Kinslow was the game's top rusher with 103 yards on 26 carries.
For San Mateo, Bottari completed 15 of 37 passes for 148 yards and rushed for two scores. He was intercepted twice. Darrell Page led Bulldogs rushers with 50 yards on 16 carries. Jermaine Jackson had seven pass receptions for 51 yards and Tre Hines caught four for 68 yards.
Riverside had 431 yards of total offense to 217 for San Mateo.
It was San Mateo's third appearance in the championship game over the past 11 seasons – without success.
The game marked the first meeting of two of the state's legendary community college football programs, Riverside in its 98th season and San Mateo in its 97th – with both seeking their initial official state gridiron title.
(Fred Baer, CCCSIA)