When Gary Watkins took over the helm of the San Diego Mesa College football team, he knew there were many challenges to face. Besides recruiting against traditional powerhouses like Southwestern College, Grossmont College, and Palomar College, Watkins also wanted to play the best teams opting to join the Southern California Football Association- Central League, which is considered by many as the most competitive division in junior college football. “I believe in if you want to be the best, you have to play against the best,” states Watkins.
In their second season in the SCFA Central Division, the Olympians finished the 2019 regular season with a 7-3 record, ranked #5 in the Southern California Football Association (per RPI ranking), defeated all three programs in the county (Palomar College, Southwestern College, Grossmont College), and this Saturday will compete in a national conference bowl game, the Patriotic Bowl, against El Camino College.
“This team has battled through adversity all year,” explains Watkins. “We’ve had to shuffle our players and recently have even had to become creative with player positions. Seeing all the excitement from our team last week, and officially qualifying for the Patriotic Bowl is what gives me the biggest joy as coach. It’s what we all look forward to.”
In their previous meeting in October, El Camino bested the Olympians 45-27. In a game where El Camino dominated the trenches sacking Asante Hartzog four times, the coaching staff will need to make protection adjustments.
On the defensive side, the Olympians will need to focus on stopping the run and creating pressure on the quarterback. The Warriors gashed the Olympians for 150 yards on the ground and 298 yards in the air.
Although the score appears lopsided, the game was much closer than the box score. Both teams notched 22 first downs and the time of possession favored Mesa 36:34 against El Camino’s 23:30.
The biggest difference between the squads, well timed and big game-changing plays. The Warriors capitalized on big plays at the most opportune time which included an 86-yard touchdown in their second possession of the game.
“Our first contest we came out flat and that is all on me,” states Watkins. “I have to do a better job getting our guys to start faster. We made major mistakes in all three phases of the game, we have to play clean and efficient football if we are going to compete against a solid program like El Camino.”
At the beginning of the year the coaching staff consistently preached to ‘be all in,’ or “ballin,” the team motto. The players bought in and it shows.
The make-up of this team has always been to be prepared. It’s ‘next man up’ mentality. The coaching staff has done a marvelous job preparing each player, regardless of where they are on the depth chart. Even more impressive, they have contributed immediately.
One player who has exemplified the Olympian way is Thomas Fishburne.
Fishburne over the last two weeks has been the Olympians Swiss Army knife. Not only has he played at the wide receiver position, he was also called upon to play quarterback against Mt. San Antonio College and Palomar College.
Fishburn as a quarterback against Mt. San Antonio College was 5-16 for 85 yards and 1 touchdown. At wide receiver, caught 4 passes for 80 yards and 1 touchdown. Against Palomar College, Fishburne was 17-28 throwing for 291 yards with a long of 82 yards.
Easily as impressive has been the play of quarterback Joshua Pisik. Pisik led the Olympians to a 33-30 overtime victory against Mt. San Antonio College. Pisik was 20-33 for 229 yards with 2 touchdowns. “Every team needs a player like Joshua,” adds Watkins. “Whatever we ask of him he follows through. Day in and day out, whether be in the film room or on the field, he is present. It comes to no surprise at all what he can do when he has the ball. We are extremely blessed to have him. Furthermore, quarterbacks coach Matt Reyes has done a tremendous job in preparing all our quarterbacks, we don’t miss a beat when we make substitutions.”
“We’ve had a lot of players step up, and some of these players are playing out of position,” explains Watkins. “It really is a complement to our coaching staff who put in many hours. We have a mindset of ‘if it can happen, it will happen.” We are truly blessed with some of the best coaches in the game. Other plays who have stood out are Sammy Muniz, Jason Majid, and Shawn Moskowitz, they’ve been playing lights out.”
“It’s been a long road to get to where we are today,” explains Watkins. “I believe we are laying down a strong foundation for many years to follow. Our success is everyone’s success as an athletic program. When you see the community wearing Mesa athletics gear, we know we are headed in the right direction. From the leadership of our president and athletic director, to our counsellors and compliance coordinators, we all support each other. We are excited for this opportunity on Saturday to represent the San Diego Mesa College athletic program in a national setting.”
Students, faculty, staff and members of the community are invited to attend the game. The first 50 attendees will receive a free Mesa College stadium cushion. Tickets are $12.00 for GA/adults, $8.00 for students, faculty, staff and children, and free for military. Parking is free. Concessions/snack bar will be open beginning at 5:00 p.m. for the purchase of food, candy and drinks. Commemorative bowl game t-shirts will also be available for purchase. All concession stands are operated by Mesa College student-athletes as fundraisers for various sports programs.
Date/Time: Saturday, November 23, 2019 at 6:00 p.m.
Location: San Diego Mesa College
Merrill Douglas Stadium
7250 Mesa College Dr.
San Diego, CA 92111
Members of the Media:
For field passes, please contact Ryan Shumaker, San Diego Mesa College Athletic Director at (619) 388-2737 firstname.lastname@example.org.