San Mateo Bulldogs beat SRJC Bear Cubs in annual Clo’s Classic

James L. Alban, Sports Editor

The San Mateo Bulldogs proved why they have the number one rushing offense in California last Friday when they ran the ball 56 times in a 26-19 victory over the Bear Cubs in the Clo’s Classic.

  Both teams came out fired up and you could tell this was going to be a hard hitting game from the opening kickoff.

San Mateo’s offense mixed things up from the get-go. The Bulldogs, not particularly known for their passing offense, started off their first series of the game running and passing the ball; this seemed to catch the Bear Cubs secondary off-guard. The Bulldogs’ opening drive was three minutes, consisted of nine plays and was topped-off by a 1-yard touchdown run by runningback Seta Pouhau, giving the Bulldogs the early lead.

Freshman quarterback Blake Bledsoe started the first quarter for Santa Rosa, but couldn’t get anything going early. The second series for SRJC put the Bear Cubs in good field position, but they failed to score any points and were forced to turn the ball over on downs. Bledsoe’s offensive line wasn’t giving Bledsoe enough time in the pocket, and he was feeling the pressure of the Bulldogs’ defense early.

San Mateo quickly scored another touchdown in its second series of the first quarter. It was Pouhau, yet again, as he broke-off a 38-yard touchdown for his second of the game, giving the Bulldogs a 14-0 lead.

The first quarter ended with Bledsoe throwing a pass that the Bulldogs intercepted on the San Mateo 18-yard line and ran back 42-yards, setting up a field goal to put the Bulldogs ahead 17-0. This happened right after the Bear Cubs’ defense recovered a fumble with 23 seconds left in the quarter.

Freshman Jarred Hasskamp was put in at quarterback to start the second quarter after Bledsoe was benched.

The Bear Cubs defense stepped it up in the second quarter, holding the Bulldogs offense to one field goal, but the SRJC offense couldn’t take advantage of the defensive stops.

Outstanding kickoff return efforts by freshman defensive back Jason Varret kept giving SRJC good field position and opportunities to score. After several three-and-outs, Hasskamp finally converted a huge third and nine pass late in the half, which set an 8-yard rush touchdown by Orion Kamins. SRJC went for a 2-point conversion, but didn’t convert. Hasskamp finished the first half by throwing an interception; his second of the game, and the Bear Cubs went into the locker room down 20-6.

The first half for SRJC was characterized by missed opportunities and mistakes on both sides of the ball. Penalties and turnovers killed any type of momentum SRJC was building, and the defense had a lot of missed tackles, and the Bulldogs’ backs took advantage.

The second half told a much different story than the first. Bledsoe returned to start the second half as quarterback, and the locker room pep-talk by Coach Simons must have fired up his squad because they came determined to give the home fans something to cheer about.

A great pass from Bledsoe, combined with an amazing catch by wide receiver Jared Garcia gave the Bear Cubs a first-and-goal on San Mateo’s 1-yard line. After two run attempts by Kamins and Bledsoe failed, it looked as though SRJC would miss another great opportunity and have to settle for a field goal, but a San Mateo pass interference would give SRJC another first-and-goal. Bledsoe would take advantage of that opportunity, scoring on a 2-yard run, cutting the deficit down to a touchdown.

The Bulldogs’ offense slowed down in the second half. The SRJC defense realized that if they were to comeback in the game, they would need to stop San Mateo’s runningbacks, specifically Pouhau. SRJC began playing the “code blue defense” that were used to seeing.

The Bear Cubs very well might have won the game if it were not for a Bledsoe interception that was returned for a Bulldog touchdown in the fourth quarter, giving San Mateo a 26-13 lead.

However, the Bear Cubs proved to be resilient and the very next series drove back up the field. Bledsoe connected with wide receiver Jared Garcia for a touchdown, bringing the Bear Cubs to within a touchdown again, but a bad snap cost SRJC a point after touchdown; bad snaps seemed to be a reoccurring theme throughout the second half.

San Mateo’s victory improved its season record to a perfect 6-0 and gave the Bulldogs a second Clo’s Classic title in a row. This win also gave them a 4-3 lead all-time against SRJC.

As for the Bear Cubs, this would be their third loss of the season and their first loss in the Nor-Cal Conference, giving them a record of 3-3, 0-1.

Ultimately, it was penalties and turnovers that cost the Bear Cubs the game. However, this SRJC team has proven it can compete with the best teams. Granted it was a loss, the Bear Cubs held the number one offense in the state to 26 points; San Mateo had been averaging 51 points per game through its first five games.