Bowl preview: Defense, special teams key to Saturday’s game

American River College’s football team is on the verge of perfection.

However, the biggest opponent of the season stands in the Beavers’ way.

ARC hosts Chabot College on Saturday Nov. 19 at Beaver Stadium in the Capitol City Bowl at 2 p.m.

The Beavers finished the regular season with a 10-0 record and 4-0 in the Mid-Empire Conference following a win over cross-town rival Sacramento City College last Saturday. ARC is ranked third in Northern California, fifth in the state and ninth in the nation. Chabot (9-1, 5-0 Golden Gate Conf.) is ranked fifth in the north, eighth in the state and 14th in the nation. The Gladiators’ lone blemish was a 9-7 loss to San Mateo on Oct. 1.

Despite the Beavers having one of the top offenses in the state, and Chabot boasting fourth best rushing game in the state—the game might come down to defense and special teams. The match up is of the top two rushing defenses in the state.

ARC head coach Jerry Haflich has been pleased with the defense this season, having never given up more than two touchdowns in a single game all season.

“I think defensively we have been as stingy as any since I have been here for 12 years,” Haflich said. “They have just dominated every single game.”

Neither team has a player ranked in the top 50 in total tackles in the state. That is an indication of the margin of victory for both teams. ARC has defeated opponents this season by an average of 33 points per game. Chabot has an average margin of almost 21 points.

On special teams, Michael Lindsay leads ARC in punt return average. The sophomore is ranked fourth in the state with 16.04 per return. Chabot’s punt returner, Asant McCrea is averaging 16.09 yards per return and has scored one touchdown.

Devonte Booker scored on a 90-yard kickoff return last week against SCC, but is one kick return short of qualifying for state rankings. Booker is averaging 34.8 yard per return, and would be the top spot in the state if he had at least 11 returns so far this season. Bryce Pratt also returned a kickoff for a touchdown last week just before Booker in the third quarter.

“It was good to see special teams finally step up and take two to the house. We hadn’t had one all year. And going back-to-back, it was unbelievable,” ARC special teams coach Brian Airoso said.
Record-setting freshman quarterback Andy McAlindon will look to break another record on Saturday. He eclipsed the regular season record against SCC, and should break the postseason record this weekend. McAlindon needs just seven yards to break the record set in 2009. McAlindon has 2,716 yards and is second in the state with 34 touchdown passes.

The Beavers practiced lighter than usual this week in preparation for the bowl game, but realize the importance of the outcome on Saturday.

“It would be great. The first team to go 11-0 and my first year here, it would be amazing. It would be so cool,” freshman safety Zane Petty said.  “And for all the guys who have been here two years, to go (21-1) would be amazing.”

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