2017 State Championship Preview: Fullerton vs. San Mateo

2017 State Championship Preview: Fullerton vs. San Mateo
Preview by Phil Thurman, Fullerton College Sports Information

Last season's state champion, the Fullerton College Hornets (12-0 overall), returns to the CCCAA State Championship game to face the champs of the north College of San Mateo Bulldogs (11-1 overall) at the state capital.

The Hornets and Bulldogs both have storied programs, but have met only once on the gridiron.  It has been some time since these two teams last met at Fullerton Stadium, some 61 years ago. Fullerton pulled off a 26-7 victory over the College of San Mateo in the second game of the 1956 season.

College of San Mateo will be playing in its second state title game since the program began 95 years ago in 1922. Their first run at the title was in 2009 when CSM played against a stout Mount San Antonio squad in the rain, losing a close one, 7-6, on its home field.

The Bulldogs' 2017 campaign was another one filled with success as they finished the regular season as back-to-back Bay 6 Conference champions (5-0). They also finished as the #3 team in the state. Their only defeat this season was against northern powerhouse American River, a 21-20 home loss. The Bulldogs have since rectified the loss, beating #1 ARC on the road in the NCFA championship game, 24-21.

CSM has a lot to play for emotionally, as this will be the last game for long-time head coach Larry Owens (21 seasons). The well-loved Owens announced his retirement during the season and his Bulldogs have been on a winning streak ever since.

College of San Mateo's offensive unit averages 43.3 points a game. It averages 238.4 yards passing and 221.8 yards rushing. Defensively, the Bulldogs are flat-out tough, holding their opponents to an average of 218.8 yards through the air and 86.9 on the ground.

Freshman quarterback Miles Kendrick leads Northern California in passing efficiency (180.7) throwing for 1,766 yards with 18 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Kendrick can also do damage on the ground as he is second on the team in rushing with 423 yards on 92 carries with 5 TDs. Another freshman QB, Shawn Akina, can sling the ball around, too. He has thrown for 1,031 yards, 8 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions.  Freshman running back Cameron Taylor is tied for 5th in the state with 17 rushing TDs. He leads the team on the ground with 949 yards.

CSM has a fantastic receiving duo in freshman Rajae Johnson and sophomore Jared Latu. Johnson is 3rd in state in receiving yards at 1,256 on 49 catches. He also has 13 touchdowns. Latu has 47 catches for 781 yards with 9 TDs.

Both, the o-line and d-line for the Bulldogs are big, strong, and tough. The defense is anchored by a pair of sophomore linebackers in Colt Doughty (Bay 6 Defensive Player of the Year) and Dorrzel Hicks. Fullerton will have to bring its best against such a talented team.

The Hornets will play in their 9th state championship game (1965, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1983, 1988, 2013, 2016, 2017), their 3rd in the last five years. Ranked #1 in the south, FC went an undefeated 12-0 this season. The last time they came into the title game with an unblemished record was in 2013. 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Hornet team's winning of the first state championship under the playoff system.

Winning the 2017 Southern Conference title marks the 7th in the last ten seasons under head coach Tim Byrnes. Fullerton made it back to the state championship after beating #2 Riverside City College with a record-breaking score of 75-16 in the Nov. 25 SCFA championship game.

The Hornet offense scorched its opponents this season, breaking many records (school and state) along the way. This year's squad broke the scoring record averaging 57.4 points a game. Last year's national champion Hornets owned the previous record at 49.9 points a game. This season the Hornets passed for an average of 300.7 and rushed for an average 273.8 yards per game. They scored in the 70's three times, the 60's one time, the 50's four times, the 40's three times, and the 30's one time, their lowest scoring output against Saddleback at 33 points.

Four quarterbacks have tossed the ball around for the Hornets this season in sophomore Kane Wilson (Co-Offensive MVP), freshman Ladarius Skelton (Co-Offensive MVP), sophomore Johnny Feauto (SCFA Championship MVP), and freshman David Hendrick. Wilson leads the state in QB efficiency at 183.3. He has thrown for 1,570 yards with 15 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Wilson has also been efficient on the ground, running for 289 yards on 43 carries for 4 TDs. Skelton leads the team in rushing with 1,112 yards with 18 TDs (4th state), but his arm can be just as damaging, throwing for 992 yards, 9 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. Very poised in the pocket and cunning outside of it, Feauto has thrown for 853 yards, 7 TDs and 1 interception. Very cerebral and gifted athletically, Hendrick has stepped in throwing the ball for 193 yards with a touchdown.

Sophomore running back Gerald Hulett is second on the team in rushing with 830 yards on 129 carries. He is tied for school record in career touchdowns at 26.

Sophomore receivers Markus Grossman (34 catches, 453 yards, 5 TDs) and Robert Johnson (27 catches, 518 yards, 6 TDs) are the team's leading receivers. However, the ball is spread around to many other talented and speedy receivers. Freshman Kedryan Wilson (SCFA Semifinal MVP, 25 catches, 503 yards, 1 TD), sophomore Daurice Simpson (24 catches, 377 yards, 2 TDs), sophomore Justin Manyweather (22 catches, 274 yards, 3 TDs), freshman Robert Downs (21 catches, 312 yards, 4 TDs), freshman Noah Hoffman(11 catches, 164 yards, 1 TD), and sophomore Davante Richardson (11 catches, 124 yards) can all sting a defense.

The Hornet defense has been playing exceptionally well as of late, shutting out its two playoff opponents in the second half. The unit has held teams this season to an average of 17.5 points a game (62.4 rushing and 273.3 passing).

Led by sophomore Montre Bonner (Southern Conference MVP, 12 sacks, 32 tackles), freshman Joey Noble (9 sacks, 35 tackles), freshman Oscar Burgueno (3 sacks, 20 tackles), and sophomore Jemycheal Moore (5.5 sacks, 27 tackles), the FC defensive line can put pressure on any offensive unit. The leading tackler for the Hornets is freshman safety Jacob Jones with 57 tackles. He also has 2 interceptions. Sophomore linebackers Roy Oto (5.5 sacks, 45 tackles), Cody Darrow (42 tackles), and Caleb Johnson (SCFA Final MVP, 4.5 sacks, 36 tackles) will be needed in order to stop CSM's powerful run game.

The CCCAA State Championship game between Fullerton College and College of San Mateo will take place at Sacramento City College's Charles C. Hughes Stadium on Saturday, December 9th. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.