By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
College of San Mateo turned three muffed punt returns and an interception into touchdowns Saturday afternoon in defeating host Santa Rosa JC, 54-30, in the Bear Cubs’ season finale.
Two of the fumbles and the interception came in the first half when the game was still in doubt. San Mateo led, 27-16, at intermission.
The interception came on the first series of the game. Sam Atoe, who played high school ball for Maria Carrillo, made the 61-yard pick and Omar Galvan (Analy) kicked the extra point for the Bulldogs.
Punt return man Kaipo Pearl dropped the ball twice in the first half, once while trying to field it and the other time while he was being tackled.
“Being able to capitalize on those turnovers made the difference for us,” winning coach Bret Pollack said. “It allowed us to play conservative in the second half and for the most part, we kept the ball on the ground.”
San Mateo employs the option spread and time and again quarterback Blake Plattsmier called his own number. He wound up scoring four touchdowns while gaining 194 yards on 25 carries.
“We practiced defending the option all week,” Bear Cubs coach Keith Simons said. “Then, in the game, some of the guys started free-lancing. Instead of going after the player they were assigned to contain, they tried to anticipate where the ball was going.
That’s not how you defend the option.
“On a lot of those carries, the quarterback had way too much room and he did the smart thing, he ran with it.”
As he has all season, Garrett Guanella led Santa Rosa in tackling. The Cardinal Newman alum had seven solos and assisted on two others.
He’s a sure bet to make the All-NorCal Conference team for the second year in a row.
This was his last game for the Bear Cubs, but his football future is bright.
“I’ve gotten a number of calls about him from D-I programs,” Simons said of the lineman. “He can play at that level.”
Guanella, who is 6-foot-6 and weighs 225, said he wants to play in California and hopes to sign with a Pac-12 school.
“I loved my time at the JC and I improved a lot over high school. I’m much better at defending the run and I’ve put on weight which I needed to do.
“I would’ve liked my final game here to turn out differently, but every time we made a mistake, San Mateo seemed to capitalize.”
Four Bear Cubs, including punter Hugo Orozco, threw at least one pass. All told, the Bear Cubs completed 31 for 345 yards.
Terrance Drew was the leading receiver, grabbing five passes for 107 yards and a touchdown.
Drew was one of 10 freshmen who started on offense.
“He’ll be on the all-conference team with Guanella,” Simons predicted. “He’s got an unbelievable future ahead of him.” Drew is 6-foot-4.
The Bears Cubs end the season with a 3-7 mark overall and 1-4 in league.
“This season, we were young,” Simons said. “Next year looks good with so many freshmen coming back. Now, if we can get the top high school talent in Sonoma County to come here, we’ll have a strong team.”