Win number 22 had it all for American River College.
Attacked all afternoon by a high-energy Santa Rosa offense, the Beavers defense came up big late with an interception with just over a minute to play to hold on to a 42-28 victory on Saturday, Sept. 22.
After the game, ARC head coach Jerry Haflich said it was maturity and the ability to adjust that helped the defense intercept three passes in the second half that gave the Beavers a insurmountable lead and extended the team’s win steak to 22 games.
On a first down pass at midfield, freshman defensive back Rozale Byrd intercepted a screen pass and returned the ball for a touchdown with 1:11 left in the game as the Beavers took a two score lead for the first time all game.
“They kept running it about four times during the game,” Byrd said of the screen pass. “So I saw the linemen come down for the screen, I stepped in front of the ball and took it to the house.”
That insight of Byrd to recognize the play is what Haflich said changed the tempo for ARC in the second half.
“(Santa Rosa) got into a pattern offensively and we made a great play into that screen again,” Haflich said. “So it was just a matter of us recognizing and (Byrd) making a really nice, tough play.”
The Sept. 22 victory helped American River start the season (4-0) for the second straight year. Santa Rosa Junior College is now (2-2) for the season.
For a team known for a prolific offense, the win was unique for ARC because of the variety of plays from surprising heroes that vaulted the Beavers to the first win over a North Division foe as a member of the top level of junior college football in California.
Starting running back Devontae Booker was limited in the amount of offensive plays against the Bear Cubs, but the sophomore returned the opening kickoff 95 yards to give the Beavers a quick 7-0 lead.
Booker finished with 163 yards rushing and two rushing touchdowns. He also scored on a five-yard pass, his fourth and final of the game.
The Beavers also had some ingenuity from sophomore punter Raul Reyes. With the game tied at 21-21 in the fourth quarter.
Reyes was rushed hard by two defenders as he faked the punt, Reyes ran to the right with the ball tucked under his arm. He then, quickly, punted the ball rugby-style down the field. With a very generous bounce, the ball hit off the Santa Rosa returner and Trevor Jones recovered the ball for ARC.
“I felt that if I faked the punt, (Randy Harvey) would jump and he would get across and I just kicked it and it bounced in our favor,” Reyes said.
Four plays later, the big boys got to eat at the buffet table.
Six-foot one-inch, 340 pound defensive tackle Andrew Fuimaono lined up in a “jumbo” package for the Beavers with two other defensive linemen and scored a one-yard touchdown with just over 12 minutes to play to give the Beavers the lead for good at 28-21.
“That’s been something we’ve been working on,” Halfich said. “It’s fun and great for Andrew, great for those big ole O-linemen to just punch it up in there.”
The game wasn’t all fun and games for the Beavers. Depleted in the secondary, Santa Rosa continually found outside receivers for long receptions that kept the defense on the field and forced mistakes that resulted in a few scores that Haflich admits the Beavers need to clean up.
“We can’t expect to have all these penalties and stay close with anybody,” Haflich said.
The Beavers host No. 1 ranked and defending state and national champs San Francisco City College on Sept. 29, at 1 p.m.
“It’s a pecking order game,” Haflich said. “San Francisco is the top team in the country, they are the top team in California. We want to play to that level. That’s our goal. We will find out Saturday if we are there or not.”