Following the first undefeated season in school history, the American River College football team had a busy offseason of accolades.
Eighteen players have been offered scholarships with 12 accepting the offers and five players transferring to NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision schools, formally known as Division 1-A.
Defensive linemen Cortez Woods signed with University of Nevada, Reno. All-American offensive tackle Connor Rains will be going to Wyoming. Defensive end Thomas Evans is headed to Texas State University. All-American linebacker Terry Easmon and wide receiver Justin Collins will be going to Western Michigan University.
Head coach Jerry Haflich also received the regional coach of the year award for the second straight year.
With the 18 players leaving on a scholarship there are some holes to fill to get back to the championship level team of a year ago. The team however will still look similar, especially on defense with the entire starting secondary and two linebackers coming back.
After the championship season, coach Haflich feels his team is ready for the move up from the Mid-Empire Conference into the Valley Conference and also a move up in divisions. “We can choose to go up anytime,” said Haflich, “we just needed to hang on for a little bit before we got ready.”
“It’s something we have been building for since I took over in 2007,” said Haflich.
The move puts ARC in play for the Northern California championship and the state title game, a game they could not play in last year because of the division they belonged to. With the move into a higher division, the competition and teams are better. “The competition has always been good,” said Haflich, “we just play the best now.”
The “best” could include a week-four showdown against College of San Francisco, a team that finished first in the state last year. “It’s always nice to play the best, you kind of find out where you are as a team,” said Haflich, “Our guys are really excited about it.”
Going into the next season, two of the Beavers’ key players on offense will return. Andy McAlindon, freshman all-state quarterback and offensive player of the year, and freshman running back Devonte Booker who also was named all-state, hope to duplicate the explosive offense of a year ago. Cornerback Zane Petty, also receiving all-state honors, returns on a defense that’s bringing back at least six starters.
Even though Haflich feels confident in his team, he knows areas that will need to step up to reach the level of last year’s team. After scholarships to four of the five starting offensive linemen, the coach will have to reload his big guys.
“Well I think the key will be how good we are up front. No question of (McAlindon’s) ability, no question of Booker’s ability, but we have got to be able to run the football with the big guys up front, protect the quarterback, and throw the football”