When it comes to high-stakes football, City College of San Francisco and Mt. San Antonio College have some history.
When the Rams (11-1) make the trip south to Mount SAC in Walnut on Saturday to face the Mounties (10-2), it will mark the fourth time since 2007, and fifth overall, that the teams have faced in the California Community College Athletic Association state championship game. The Rams took down the Mounties in '07 and '11. Mount SAC exacted some revenge with a crown of its own in '10.
But bad blood doesn't flow between the two programs: In fact, both coaches profess profound respect for each other, and the respective programs they've built on opposite ends of the state. Mount SAC coach Bob Jastrab still remembers some of CCSF coach George Rush's best teams.
“I remember playing [Jeremiah] Masoli — we'd have him for a 10-yard loss, until he'd spin out and get a 30-yard gain,” Jastrab said.
“Whatever notoriety we get up North, they have comparable notoriety in the South,” George Rush said. “They're the perennial odds-on favorite to represent the South in the state championship game, and their record shows that. [Jastrab] does a great job. The real proof in the pudding is the quality of their play and their consistency each season.”
After two regular season losses, each stemming from turnover-ridden performances, Mount SAC's postseason participation was in serious jeopardy. But the Mounties were awarded an at-large playoff bid, and promptly proceeded to justify it with routs of Fullerton (44-14) and Riverside (35-14) on the road.
Jastrab historically counts upon a cadre of playmakers. Quarterback Justin Alo has been sensational of late, throwing for 263 yards and three touchdowns in the convincing playoff win over Riverside. Omaris Tolbert has rushed for 1,194 yards (6.5 yards per carry), while Derrick Macon has 12 receiving touchdowns, and is one of three players with more than 30 receptions this season.
“This team has no superstars,” Jastrab said. “Someone new steps up each week.”
For CCSF, facing a high-powered offense that spreads the ball well merely constitutes the latest test in a season chock-full of them.
“I think we match up well [with Mount SAC] defensively,” Rush said. “We've proved throughout the season, against very good teams, that we can defend the field. We play physically, and we have great team speed. Those things will be key on Saturday.”
Following an extra week of preparation after the 17-14 win over American River in the Northern California championship game, morale is high. CCSF can count upon experience — the Rams start 10 sophomores on defense, headlined by ball-hawking sophomore safety Shalom Luani, the Bay 6 Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
With conference Offensive Player of the Year Anthony Rodriguez injured vs. American River, sophomore quarterback Jeremiah Peralta stepped up admirably. In the 17-14 win, Peralta completed 25 of 38 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns. Star tailback tandem Jahray Hayes (21 rushing touchdowns) and Elijah Dale should help relieve pressure off Peralta. Rodriguez will not play Saturday.
CCSF is angling for its seventh state championship, Mount SAC its fourth.
“Everybody's chasing George, with what he's accomplished up there. No one can touch him,” said Jastrab, before adding with a chuckle, “I keep asking him when he's going to retire.”