It's No. 2 vs. No. 3 when the College of San Mateo football team makes the short drive north to City College of San Francisco for Saturday's showdown.
Retaining the No. 2 ranking in the state this week after top-ranked American River lost to Butte, things are by no means settled for the Bulldogs. CSM and CCSF have matching 8-1 records, their lone losses both coming to American River, also 8-1.
Thus, the winner of this rivalry game and regular-season finale will win the Bay 6 Conference and earn the No. 1 seed in Northern California for the inaugural California Community College Athletic Association playoffs, which features eight teams.
The loser would enter the playoff bracket as a wild card, should American River lose to Sacramento City (8-3). If American River wins, the loser of CCSF-CSM would miss out on the playoff and host a bowl game instead.
“It's what you work for all year,” CCSF coach George Rush said. “There's a lot on the line for both teams, but it's a good way to end the regular season. I'm sure we're both looking forward to it.”
The Bulldogs and Rams boast stout defenses. CCSF allows just 237.9 yards per game, while CSM checks in at 238.1. “It's punch-counterpunch,” Rush said. “I'm not a big stat guy, but it's interesting to look at those dynamics.”
CSM's offense is led by sophomore tailbacks Michael Latu (72.3 yards per game, nine touchdowns) and D.J. Peluso (8.5 yards per carry, six touchdowns in 54 carries). Sammy Fanua, another sophomore, has eight touchdowns on just 35 carries. The Bulldogs rank first in rushing yards (2,409), attempts (464), yards per game (267.7) and rushing touchdowns (35).
A bolstered aerial attack adds a new wrinkle. Led by grayshirt freshman quarterback Justin Burgess, passing yards account for nearly 40 percent of the Bulldogs' total offense. Sophomore wide receivers Kevin Kutchera (33 receptions) and Raeshawn Lee (20) both average more than 20 yards per catch and have combined for eight touchdowns. Elias Vargas is no slouch as a third option, with three TD receptions in 19 receptions.
“It's created a real difference in our attack, and it definitely puts an added stress on the defense,” CSM coach Bret Pollack said.
Quarterback Anthony Rodriguez has been sensational for CCSF this season, throwing for 2,012 yards and 15 touchdowns against just two interceptions. Jahray Hayes and Elijah Dale provide a two-pronged attack at running back. Hayes' 17 touchdowns ranks first in the CCCAA. On defense, sophomore end Tavita Faalu has 13 sacks (second in the CCCAA), 20 tackles for loss and five forced fumbles.
Matching records, matching stats, proven performers. It promises to be a good one.
“We've been performing well recently, but S.F. is on the same run, too,” Pollack said. “It's two forces colliding here.”