Monday, December 21, 2009

'Dogs host historic game; finish fourth in nation

Bulldog defensive lineman Matangi Tonga takes down Mounties running back Lancer Iosefa in one of his five tackles during the game, earning him Most Valuable Defensive Player honors. Photo courtesy of David McLain.

Bradley Davis and Sharon Ho
Issue date : 12/14/09

Despite giving up just one touchdown, the Bulldogs fell one point short of a state championship Dec. 12, losing at home to Mt. San Antonio College Mounties 7-6, to finish fourth on the national level 10-2.

Undaunted by heavy downpours lasting for more than three quarters of game time, fans came out in full force to support their teams; the crowd at College Heights Stadium was 3,723 strong .

Late in the third quarter, it seemed that CSM was well on its way to claiming their first state title, with a 6-0 lead. The Bulldogs had scored in the first quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run by No. 9 quarterback Matt Pelesasa on a third-and-goal. A botched snap kept CSM from tacking on the extra point.

With two inches of rain and wind gusts of up to 30 mph, both teams suffered from very sloppy play, resulting in eight turnovers, the most surprising of them being the five that CSM gave up, after having the second highest turnover ratio in the state all year.

Perhaps even more alarming were special teams, or the lack thereof for each team. For the Bulldogs, the botched extra point was the least of their worries; they quickly added a fumbled punt return by slot Will Frazier, a missed field goal, and a fumble by the punter.

Fortunately for CSM, Mt. SAC’s red zone offensive failures kept the Bulldogs in control for almost three quarters. Despite receiving the ball in CSM territory twice in the first half, the Mounties were unable to turn the opportunities into points.

After completely shutting down Mt. SAC’s offense the entire game, a missed assignment allowed Mounties quarterback Matt Faulkner to hit a wide open Michael Harrell for a 64-yard touchdown pass seven seconds before the end of the third quarter.

“Just a coverage bust; it looked like we didn’t even have a corner out there. I don’t know what happened,” said No. 17 CSM defensive lineman Matongi Tonga, who won Most Valuable Defensive Player honors. “Even though the loss was a big disappointment to us, I am proud of the way we played despite the rain. We gave everything we had; we left everything we had on the field.” Tonga and fellow Bulldog defense lineman Eddie Elder earned 1st Team All-American Honors. Elder was named the State Defensive Player of the Year and will be playing for the Arizona Wildcats next fall.

After multiple drives leading to nothing but punts and an interception, CSM was getting desperate. In search of a big play, the Bulldogs dug deep into the play book and pulled out a half back pass. The CSM running back was hit while he threw and the ball fell right into the hands of a Mounties defender.

CSM would get another chance to take the ball down the field after once again forcing a Mt. SAC punt. The Bulldogs got the ball down into scoring position before being stopped on third down and two. After initially sending kicker Juan Garcia out to attempt a 42-yard field goal, Head Coach Bret Pollack called a time out and sent his offense back onto the field.

The call was a play action roll out, but the Mounties were all over it. Pelesasa was stopped on his feet and he threw his last pass of his CSM career, landing it in the hands of a San Antonio defender, and that was it.

“They made one big play, we had one good drive, that’s it,” said Pollack. “A missed extra point, missed field goal, that’s the game.” The State Championship was the second loss of the season by one point. CSM previously suffered its first loss of the season on Oct. 24 to Foothill College 27-28.

“It was heartbreaking for the team,” said Maggie Skaff, international student services coordinator, who has been watching the Bulldogs play for 21 years. “One of my international students, No. 51 defense lineman Sosefo Maka, played in the game too,” Skaff said. “I am really happy to see an international student represented in the team.”

“The Bulldogs still played a great game, even with the torrential rain and wind,” Skaff said. “It was unfortunate that they lost by a point but we are still proud of them.”

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