After the host Eagles took an early 7-0 lead with a 64-yard drive, Willis jumped to the forefront in the final three minutes of the first quarter. Quarterback Jason Douglas hit Willis with two long TD passes, covering 58 and 46 yards, as CSM went ahead for good, 14-7, with 56 seconds left in the initial period.
"I just outran him," said Willis of his defender on the first TD. "I knew he wasn't that fast." Willis caught the ball 40 yards downfield in the open just inside the 20 and ran into the end zone untouched.
"The second TD was a fake run," said Willis regarding his defender. "I set him up like I was going to block and then ran right by him" Willis was in the clear crossing the ten when he connected with the Douglas aerial and then waltzed to paydirt.
In San Mateo's second game last year, a loss to Santa Rosa, Willis suffered a pinched nerve in his neck and wound-up taking a redshirt year. After his 117 yards on four receptions Saturday, he's one of the top receivers in the Coast Conference with 9 catches for 193 yards and three touchdowns in two games. He also has 100 yards on punt returns for an all-purpose running total of 293.
With the postponement of the Sept. 15 Santa Rosa game (to Oct. 13), the effects of a week off were visible at the start of Saturday's game. "We came out flat," admitted coach Larry Owens. "We needed to get into a groove and we did. Willis made some nice catches."
San Mateo (2-0) returns home Saturday at 1 p.m. to entertain San Joaquin Delta (2-1).
CSM went three-and-out on its first two series against Mendocino (1-2). Otherwise, Douglas had a sparkling first half, completing nine of 14 passes for 175 yards, including touchdowns on three consecutive series. He threw a 31-yard scoring pass to James Johnson early in the second quarter that gave the Bulldogs a 20-7 lead.
San Mateo let the Eagles back into the game, however, by roughing kicker Kurtis Woodard after he managed to retrieve a high snap and still punt the ball. The 15-yard penalty gave Mendocino a first down on the CSM 27 and quarterback Jesse Kozak promptly threw a 27-yard TD pass to Michael Rosales That closed the scoring gap to 20-14 with nine minutes remaining in the half. But it was as close as the Eagles would get.
Mendocino WR Jarud Overhall (left) and QB Jesse Kozak
Sunia Malolo's 27-yard interception return led to a 30-yard field goal by Tyler O'Brien and a 23-14 mid-game lead.
After the intermission, CSM maintained control of the game by keeping the ball on the ground. The Bulldogs finished with 494 yards of offense, 296 on 49 rushing plays. Sophomore running back Jonathan Johnson out of Hillsdale gained 121 yards on 21 carries, his second consecutive 120-yard game.
CSM extended its lead to 37-14 in the third quarter as Alvaro Carvajal completed a pair of all-rushing drives with one-yard TDs. He has now scored three touchdowns in the same manner this season.
Mendocino got its last points with just six minutes left in the game on a 34-yard pass from Kozak to Jarud Overall.
But Kozak was sacked seven times. He was also intercepted by Kenneth Lincoln and Malolo. All-State Ryan Boschetti made 3 ½ sacks and Peter Walden, a 315-pound frosh lineman out of Capuchino had two.
"We did what we wanted to do,," said Boschetti, the former Carlmont lineman "We started slow but we shut down their running game."
CSM's next foe, Stockton's Delta College, is coming off an impressive upset of state-ranked No. 15 Merced, 31-28.
And San Mateo, ranked 24th in the JC Athletic Bureau California poll last week, can expect to move-up.
M _ Cruz 1 run (Butler kick)
SM _ Willis 58 pass Douglas (O'Brien kick)
SM _ Willis 46 pass Douglas (O'Brien kick)
SM _ Ja. Johnson 31 pass Douglas (run failed)
M _ Rosales 27 pass Kozak (Butler kick)
SM _ FG 30 O'Brien
SM _ Carvajal 1 run (kick failed)
SM _ Carvajal 1 run (Jo. Johnson pass Noble)
M _ Overall 34 pass Kozak (pass failed)