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PUNT RETURN GIVES FULLERTON 16-12 STATE FOOTBALL TITLE WIN OVER COLLEGE OF SAN MATEO
SACRAMENTO -- College of San Mateo had a taste of victory with a 12-9 lead over defending champion Fullerton and possession with just over a minute remaining in Saturday's California Community College Athletic Association state football title game at Sacramento City College's Hughes Stadium Saturday afternoon. But the tide turned on an ensuring 59-yard punt return by Fullerton wide receiver Justin Manyweather, who was stopped practically on the goal line by CSM's Damari Davis.
On the next play, a 1-foot leap over the top by running back Gerald Hulett gave Fullerton the lead at 16-12 with 47 seconds left -- and that was the game-winning score.
CSM went nowhere on its short final possession, despite a dramatic extra chance. Fullerton was called for roughing the passer on San Mateo's apparently game-ending play on fourth down from its own 24 with 4 seconds remaining. The Bulldogs, therefore, got an "extra play" from their own 39 that ended with a sack by Hornets defensive end Joey Noble.
San Mateo had taken the 12-9 lead with 6:27 left in the game on a spectacular first play (following a punt) hook-up between all-Bay 6 conference receivers Jared "Line" Latu and Rajae Johnson. Latu took a handoff from quarterback Miles Kendrick and maneuvered around to the right side before hitting CSM All-America receiver Johnson in stride at the 30. Johnson waltzed into the end zone to complete a 63-yard scoring play. (They each had seven receptions in the game and Latu was voted the offensive player of the game.)
CHAMPIONSHIP/HISTORY: The Bulldogs ended with the winningest record, 11-2, in their 96 seasons of football -- but still couldn't grab their first official state championship. Retiring CSM head coach Larry Owens finished with a 21-year record of 130 wins and 91 losses.
Three-time state champ Fullerton completed a perfect 13-0 season, adding to its now national-leading 19-game win streak – and is also expected to claim a repeat national (ratings) title.
It was the 50th anniversary of the first official state championship game, won by Fullerton in 1967.
San Mateo had appeared in – and hosted – a previous state title game in 2009, losing, 7-6, to Mt. San Antonio College. That was the last time a Southern California team won a state title game in the north.
A DEFENSIVE BATTLE: The match-up of the state's top two scoring teams resulted in a defensive battle.
It didn't take long for CSM to score first, however – with a safety. On Fullerton's first play from scrimmage, after state punting leader Justin Watts pinned the Hornets on the 2-yard line with a 50-yard punt, CSM linebacker Dorrzel Hicks tackled Hornets quarterback David Hendrick in the end zone. Hicks was the game's defensive player of the game with 10 tackles (three for loss).
Fullerton, averaging 57.4 points per game, completed its only touchdown drive late in the period, taking the lead at 7-2 following an 11-yard TD pass from Johnny Feauto to Markus Grossman.
San Mateo then marched from its own 20 to the Fullerton 18 before settling for a 36-yard field goal by Watts to close to 7-5 just into the second quarter.
The game's only other score was another safety after Fullerton punted to the San Mateo 1-yard line following the first possession after the intermission. This time it was the Bulldogs who gave up the two points on a referee call for intentional grounding for a long pass thrown out of the end zone. The 9-5 count remained until the late fourth quarter dramatics.
STAT LEADERS: CSM freshman running back Cameron Taylor was the game's top rusher with 111 yards on 25 carries. Hulett had 65 yards on 20 carries to pace the Hornets. Feauto completed 18 of 28 passes for 162 yards with three interceptions. For San Mateo, Kendrick was 13 of 21 for 123 yards and had two picks.
There were no fumbles in the game but the five interceptions made a difference. San Mateo got picks by Hicks (in the end zone), by Jordan Hendy (on his own 5-yard line), and by Evan Dawson (also on the five).
"Our coaches did a great job with the defense," said Owens. "But we didn't do enough offensively.
San Mateo had the game rushing advantage by two yards, 127-125. Fullerton topped the passing charts, 218-186, and therefore the total offense, 343-313.
PLAYER OF THE GAME AWARDS
Defense – LB Dorrzel Hicks, CSM
Offensive: WR Jared "Line" Latu, CSM
MVP: LB Cody Darrow, Fullerton