A banner reading “2009 Northern California Champions” hangs on a fence just off the football field at the College of San Mateo.
The regional title was the first in school history, but the banner is the only reminder of the 2009 season around the CSM football program, as the Bulldogs roundly act as if the season never happened.
“I don’t care about last year,” CSM coach Bret Pollack said. “It’s about this year and this team. Not that I didn’t enjoy what happened [last season], but you have to move on.”
The banner, instead of serving as a trophy, has become a representation of the program’s demanding nature.
“It’s an expectation for the guys coming in, in all areas,” defensive coordinator Tim Tulloch said. “If you’re going to put blue and white on, that’s what we expect. You carry yourself like a champion.”
CSM, which fell to Mount San Antonio College in the state championship game last season, is in a perpetual state of reloading like any other two-year community college football program. The Bulldogs will return five starters on the offensive side of the ball and only a single starter on defense.
“That’s junior college football,” Tulloch said. “If we were at a four-year school and started eight freshmen on defense, I’d be concerned, but our guys don’t care. We’re in the same position we were in last year.”
Despite the loss of four Division I recruits, the goals for CSM are still the same.
“We’re going to make some mistakes early on, but we have the same expectations that we had last year. Play hard and play together,” Tulloch said.
The road back to the state title game won’t be easy either, as eight of the 10 opponents on the Bulldogs’ schedule are in the top 20 in the state. Also, being the defending Northern California champions, CSM will be circled on many teams’ schedules.
“Since we’re defending [Northern California champions], there will always be a target there,” said sophomore linebacker and captain Brandon Francesconi. “We’re the one to beat.”
The roster may look different, but the core principles of the CSM program will still be prevalent: an option run attack and a focus on stopping the run on the defensive side of the ball.
“We’re going to run the football on offense and we’re going to stop the run on defense, that’s no mystery to anyone who watches us play,” Pollack said. “We’re going to own the box. That’s where it all starts with us.”
Even though it may be too early to tell, the Bulldogs appear confident to a return to the success of 2009.
“There are no warning signs of the train going off-track,” Pollack said.
2009 record: 10-2 overall, 4-1 NorCal
Coach: Bret Pollack (second year)
Key returners: Linebacker Brandon Francesconi, cornerback Dwaine Simpson, wide receiver Rahsaan Vaughn
Key losses: Quarterback Matt Pelesasa (Western Kentucky), running back David Aknin (Cal), defensive tackle Matangi Tonga (Houston), safety Eddie Elder (Arizona St.)
Sept. 11 vs. Fresno City College 2 p.m.
Sept. 18 at Reedley College 7 p.m.
Sept. 25 at West Valley College 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 2 vs. Chabot College 1 p.m.
Oct. 9 vs. Los Medanos College 1 p.m.
Oct. 16 at Santa Rosa College 7 p.m.
Oct. 23 vs. Foothill 1 p.m.
Oct. 30 at City College of S.F. 1 p.m.
Nov. 6 vs. Butte College 1 p.m.
Nov. 12 at Laney College 7 p.m.