Never in American River College history had a football team finished 11-0.
Well, until this season.
Following an impressive 10-0 regular season, the Beavers beat Chabot College of Hayward in the Capital City Bowl 41-18 on Saturday, Nov. 19 at Beaver Stadium.
“I wanted to get that 11th win so bad—for the college, for the boys, for everyone, really, because it puts us on the map,” ARC head coach Jerry Haflich said.
The players doused Haflich with a Gatorade jug and sprayed each other and the rest of the coaching staff with water bottles during the final minutes of the game.
The players then lifted the coach in the air at midfield before heading to the stands to personally thank the fans for their support.
Receiver LaDon Hudson was overcome with emotion and knelt down onto the players’ bench, trying to hide the tears of enjoyment his body couldn’t hold inside any longer.
The sophomores soaked in the moment, knowing they started something special after going 21-1 over the last two seasons and finishing their careers at ARC with an 18-game winning streak.
The last loss for ARC was a home game to Sierra College on Oct. 2, 2010.
The win over Chabot gave the Beavers the first 11-win season since 1967, and the first undefeated record in school history.
The Beavers finish the season ranked third in Northern California, fifth in the state and ninth nationally.
The Surprising Stars
Despite the final statistics by freshman quarterback Andy McAlindon, the Beavers came into this season with question marks at quarterback. A late arrival to campus, McAlindon was in a three-headed race for the starting spot going into fall camp with sophomore Reggie Langford and freshman Jonathan Kodama.
McAlindon won the starting job before the season-opener against Cabrillo College, tossing four touchdowns in a 57-10 rout on Sept. 10.
Using a spread offense with his imposing height (six foot, five inches) and deceiving speed in and out of the pocket, McAlindon was able to continue a torrid pace through the first five games of the season. He had 22 touchdown passes through those games, breaking the previous single-season school record of 21, set in 2009 by Jared Gavard.
“He is a real tough guy to stand in that pocket and deliver those balls and make records,” fellow freshman Devonte Booker said.
McAlindon threw 36 touchdowns this season, shattering the all-time record for ARC. Todd Larson set that previous mark of 32 back in 1986.
Planning on returning for his sophomore season, McAlindon also set the school record for most passing yards in a season (2,875) and touchdowns thrown in a game (6).
Another surprising star for the Beavers was Booker. It wasn’t because of his lack of talent, for the freshman was committed to play running back at Washington State University in 2011, but transferred to ARC a week before this season started.
Booker eventually moved into the running back competition with returning sophomores Joe Ferguson and Bryce Pratt. All three were sharing the load through the first five games of the season.
But Ferguson was unable to play against College of the Siskiyous on Oct. 15 and Pratt didn’t play the next week against Contra Costa College.
That’s when Booker took over.
The freshman averaged 125 yards a game over the next four games before an arm injury limited his action in the final two games. Booker finished the season with a team-high 799 yards rushing and 15 total touchdowns. Despite not being able to take the load at running back the last two weeks, Booker returned two kickoffs for touchdowns (90 and 85 yards) and led the state in a kickoff return average of 37.9.
Sophomore Michael Lindsay was supposed to be part of that three-player rotation before Booker came in. Instead, the coaching staff moved Lindsay out to receiver, and proceeded to lead the team with 56 catches for 603 yards and a first-team all-conference nod after only having seven catches during the 2010 season.
The defensive secondary was depleted by injury. Freshman Clifford Redmond started the season third on the depth chart, but cracked the starting lineup in October. He tied for the team lead with four interceptions, including one in the bowl game.
Starting linebacker Brian Benson was in a walking boot for a good portion of the midseason, but all-conference linebacker Terry Easmon, who led the team with 68 tackles, and freshman Samson Faifili also garnered all-conference first-team while helping to pick up the slack from Benson’s injury.
All-american defensive tackle Cortez Woods continued to get double and triple-teamed all season, but bettered his stats from 2010. Woods recorded 21.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks—both career highs for the University of Nevada verbal commit.
Haflich has been a part of the Beavers’ coaching staff since 2000, and took over as head coach in 2007. After going 16-14 in his first three seasons at the helm, the Beavers have won back-to-back Mid-Empire Conference titles and two straight bowl game victories since 2010.
He credits this season’s defensive success on his first-year coordinator Jared Vanderbeek.
“If he isn’t the defensive coach of the year, I don’t know who is,” Haflich said. “One game out of 11 (the defense) gives up more than 100 yards (rushing).”
Recruiting coordinator Sid Roberson, along with the rest of the staff, have hit the road recruiting local high school talent, who seem to take notice of the recent success of the program.
“Everybody wants to come here now. I talk to the high school kids; everyone around here in the Sacramento area want to come to ARC and be a winner,” Woods said.
Obviously returning all-conference stars McAlindon, Booker and Faifili should highlight the 2012 season. The Beavers also will return all-conference cornerback Zane Petty (4 INT) and all-conference kicker Bobby Reeves.
The Beavers will need to replace the top three receivers from this season, and find a starter for next season with Woods and Easmon moving to four-year programs.
“Playing with all the sophomores, I am going to miss them. It was really fun this season. It went by fast, but now it is time to get to work for next season,” Booker said.
There could be as many as 14 players who started this season returning for the Beavers, and Faifili is confident the success of the program will translate into a need for the returning players to increase the offseason workouts.
“I am really excited. I am going to talk to the (players) coming back (and tell them) that next season starts now,” Faifili said. “How next season goes is on how we work in the offseason–so it all starts now.”