On Saturday, three City College of San Francisco conference champions take their first step on the playoff paths in the comfortable confines of their home campus.
Thanks to their 23-7 victory over College of San Mateo on Saturday, the Rams football team (9-1) seized the Bay 6 Conference championship and the No. 1 seed in Northern California for the inaugural California Community College Athletic Association playoffs. CCSF enters the game against Chabot (6-4) on a six-game win streak.
“I was really pleased with how well we played last week,” Rams coach George Rush said. “We were consistent offensively and showed great composure, but the real key was how well we played defensively.”
Before CSM scored on a 70-yard touchdown pass on the game’s final play, CCSF had held the Bulldogs to just 150 yards of total offense.
The Rams’ defense forced four turnovers and flummoxed CSM’s vaunted offense. Free safety Shalom Luani and cornerback Uriah Harris (two interceptions against the Bulldogs) will look to continue that harrying cover against Chabot.
This offseason, the CCSF women’s soccer team lost Paloma Zermeno, the 2013 conference Player of the Year and an All-American, and Raquel Herrera, last year’s starting central midfielder and creative hub, to ACL tears. Jocelyn Amable, the starting goalkeeper, broke her hand just three games into the season.
“Our girls weren’t as confident, knowing we were missing key players, but we decided to make the best of it,” coach Gabe Saucedo said. “We’ve kind of overachieved this year, and that’s a result of great team chemistry — working hard on the field, and getting along great off of it.”
Sophomores Natasha Gosiaco and Hannah Mikles, central midfielders well-equipped to engineer Saucedo’s passing-based style of play, have been excellent. Gosiaco was just named the Bay 6 Player of the Year. Mikles leads the team in assists.
“They’re very good friends, and they complement each other so well,” Saucedo said.
Despite the early setbacks, CCSF finished 10-2-6, won its fifth straight conference championship and earned a No. 4 seed for the NorCal playoffs.
“This is the proudest I’ve been of any team I’ve coached in the past six years,” Saucedo said.
CCSF freshman men’s soccer forward Elisama Padilla, who scored a team-best nine goals through the first 11 games of the season, sustained a partial MCL tear against Chabot on Oct. 10, a game in which he already had a hat trick. Guilherme Siqueira, another freshman, has added six goals in Padilla’s absence.
“Some of the freshmen have really stepped up and surprised the coaching staff,” coach Adam Lucarelli said.
CCSF (13-5-2) lost 1-0 on Nov. 7 to the same Las Positas team it will face Saturday in the first round of regional playoffs.
“We learned a lot from that game,” Lucarelli said. “When Las Positas went ahead early, that was only the second or third goal we’d given up in conference play. It was a little shock to our system, and we didn’t recover too well.
“But that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I told the team, ‘We might be in this situation in the playoffs. We need to learn to come from behind.’”
Lucarelli has reason to feel confident. Sophomore Emmanuel Jimenez was named conference Goalkeeper of the Year, and Lucarelli hails his starting defense as the best back line he has coached. All three Rams coaches are looking forward to Saturday.
“Having three league champions playing three playoff games at the same time might be rare for a community college, but it’s not rare for us,” Lucarelli said.
Said Saucedo: “There’s a buzz around campus. For Red Friday, the student body will wear red and post pictures of themselves to Twitter. It creates great energy for Saturday.”