In his 28 months as South San’s football coach, Ron Kretz is well on his way two achieving two key objectives — community involvement and reviving neighborhood rivalries.
The Bobcats (1-0) defeated nearby McCollum (0-1) for the second-consecutive season on Aug. 31, after the Cowboys won the first game in the series in 2016. South San’s 27-7 victory set up a showdown with Harlandale (1-0) in the Olympia Trophy Plus Bowl on Friday, Sept. 7. That series is even at 1-1 since it was christened three years ago.
“The kids played well. I’m very proud of them,” Kretz said. “Once (McCollum) gets its running game to catch up to its quality passing game, they’re going to be dangerous.”
The Cowboys, under first-year coach and McCollum alum Matthew Uzzell, had a chance to make the final score much closer. McCollum trailed 20-7 when it put together a promising drive in response to South San’s third touchdown, which came on a seven-yard run from quarterback Raul Agosto (125 yards, 15 carries) with 6:19 left in the quarter.
McCollum drove from its 23 to the Bobcats 33, with sophomore quarterback Raul Ramirez (18 of 29, 172 yards) completing four passes and Jared Luevanos running consistently. South San’s Jason Gonzalez, though, fired through to drop Luevanos for a one-yard loss on fourth-and-two.
The Cowboys were unable to sustain the momentum they gathered late in the first half, when Ramirez located Eric Laija (110 yards, 7 receptions) on the Bobcats 15 for a 33-yard pass play that cut South San’s lead to 14-7.
“South San plays hard,” Uzzell said. “They did a really good job. We made some mistakes we weren’t able to overcome, and they’ll tell you the same thing.
“We have some good kids. We’re in the process of teaching them how to compete throughout the ballgame. It’s a dream come true to be leading this program.”
Behind a young-but-experienced offensive line, South San’s option offense was increasingly effective as the game went on.
The Bobcats somehow withstood three self-inflicted penalties to lead 7-0 with 9:04 until halftime on Agosto’s two-yard scoring run. South San’s next possession only lasted three plays. On the third, senior back Jacob Martinez (156 yards, 13 carries) eluded six would-be tacklers, overpowering some, for a 53-yard touchdown.
“We’re very confident this year,” Martinez said. “We didn’t skip a beat. We were ready to play. Our offensive line was unbelievable.”
South San scored off the second-half kickoff and 2:43 from the end, when Martinez ran 13 yards for another touchdown, while its defense kept McCollum scoreless after halftime.
“It meant a lot, because we’re both South Side schools,” Martinez said. “It was a great game. We have a little rivalry with them, so it meant a lot to win the season opener. It sets the tone for the year.”
One of the Bobcats’ takeaways will be that they fought through the inevitable Game 1 rough times and that it’s defense bent but didn’t break as McCollum found its rhythm.
“We drill our kids on adversity throughout the offseason,” Kretz said. “It helps during the season, when you need them to come through.
“We had three possessions that ate up seven or eight minutes of the clock. If you can do that, you’re going to be in a lot of games.”