Beavers’ shot at title grows longer


American River College running back Devontae Booker (23) is pushed out of bounds during a 31-14 loss to Delta College in Stockton, Calif. The Beavers have lost two consecutive games for the first time since 2009.

Trevor Horn and Trevor Horn

The hope in the preseason was a shot at the state title. That goal wasn’t wavered after a 52-33 loss on Sept. 29 to No. 1 state-ranked City College of San Francisco two weeks ago.

But now with a 31-14 loss to San Joaquin Delta College on the road on Saturday, Oct. 13—that lofty goal might be just a dream.

“If we even want to think about the state championship, we have to hope Delta loses a game and we have to win out,” sophomore safety Scott Patalano said.

The Beavers (4-2 overall, 0-1 Valley Conference) now need Delta to lose two games in the next four weeks for the Beavers to have a shot at winning the conference and playing for a shot at the state title game.

A year removed from the first 11-0 season in program history, ARC took a step up in the level of competition this year to the top-tier-Valley Conference of the North Division in California Community College football.

Off to a fast start with a 4-0 record and a nation-best win streak of 22 games to start the season—ARC now has their first two-game losing streak since a loss to Feather River on Oct. 31, 2009.

The 14 points scored against Delta was also the lowest scoring output for ARC since Nov. 15, 2008 in a 22-7 loss against Sacramento City.

And to point the finger at what was to blame for ARC would take more fingers than a human hand possesses.

A defense that is geared to stop the run, gave up 256 yards rushing, including an 11-play drive for Delta late in the fourth quarter that ate up almost three minutes on the clock and set up a game-clinching field goal for Delta with just two minutes, 36 seconds remaining in regulation.

The offense surrendered four turnovers, including two interceptions by Jonathan Kodama and a fumble by Devontae Booker on a kickoff return that resulted in a touchdown for Delta that allowed them to take a 28-7 lead in the third quarter.

“We have to hold on to the football,” head coach Jerry Haflich said.

The Beavers were also whistled for 14 penalties for 124 yards with personal fouls, false starts, and pass interferences that killed drives on offense and gave up numerous first downs after the defense held the Mustangs on third down.

“We’ve got to stop making mistakes and getting turnovers that gives the opposition better opportunities,” Haflich said.

The Beavers also punted the ball seven times against Delta, including five times after halftime, which prompted ARC to bench Kodama (11-23 105 yards) for freshman Mike Hicks who finished 3-4 passing for 15 yards.

“We had four series with three and outs and we tried something different,” ARC offensive coordinator Chris Parry said about the change at quarterback in the second half.

Parry also stated the team is committed to Kodama, but will need to evaluate film and hope that he can be more aggressive and find a rhythm during games.

“We will sit down and look at the film and evaluate where we had problems with him, the receivers, the line—me,” Parry said. “We will put a plan together to try and get it fixed and hopefully we will work with Jonathan to try and get him better.”

After giving up two touchdowns in the first quarter to Delta, the ARC defense began to contain the Mustangs. After a missed field goal by Delta in the second quarter and forcing a punt and a fumble recovery by Leai Tauave, the offense for the Beavers finally got the ball moving.

Kodama, in his only solid series of the afternoon, completed three of four passes on the final drive of the first half, including a 16-yard touchdown pass to Ference Lang. The touchdown brought the Beavers within seven going into halftime and would get the ball back after intermission.

But the offense was unable to capitalize on the chance to tie the game up in the second half.

“It was just too much stabbing ourselves in the foot,” Lang said. “We know we are capable of doing better. We can’t shoot ourselves in the foot to help them to be successful off our mistakes.”

Lang returned after missing two games with an ankle injury. The freshman finished with six catches for 55 yards and the first half touchdown.

The Beavers were also hampered on offense by the first quarter benching of three offensive starters, including Booker, who finished with 102 yards rushing.

The defense was also without starting defensive linemen Adrian Williams, Xavier Blunt and linebacker Kimball Nuumatalo.

But returning starters linebacker Justin Lata, sitting alongside Patalano after the game, were ready to make any excuses after the loss.

“We didn’t execute well,” Lata said. ”There is a lot of assignments and everyone needed to hold themselves responsible. The coaches prepared us for this game, but once it starts, it’s on us to execute. We killed ourselves.”

Added Patalano, “We didn’t play with a sense of urgency.”

The Mustangs (5-1, 1-0 Valley) now have the lead in the Valley Conference with Fresno City College. ARC plays at Fresno (5-1, 1-0 Valley) next Saturday.

Haflich was quick to remind the team after the loss that the Beavers are still 4-2 and for the sophomores that were redshirts in 2010 to remember the team is 24-3 over the last two-and-a-half seasons.

But he also made it very clear after the game that in order for the Beavers to have any shot at the playoffs, let alone the slim chance at a state title run, the players, who Haflich calls a “special and talented bunch,” need to hold themselves accountable.

“It is important to be everywhere you are supposed to be on time,” Haflich said. “The rules are simple—be where you are supposed to be.”

Game Notes:

-Sophomore Zane Petty led the team with 14 tackles. The Corning, Calif. native has coaches from University of Illinois coming to talk to him on campus Monday.

-Sophomore linebacker Samson Faifili went on an official recruiting trip to Oregon State last Saturday during the bye week.

-The Beavers were without sophomore wide receiver Diondre Batson. The U.S. Olympic Trials speedster was on an official recruiting trip to Florida State. Batson says the trip, which was planned before he joined the football team, was for football and track. He also said he will make an announcement of his verbal commitment in the coming weeks and whether or not it is for both sports, “depends on how I do the rest of these games” for the football team.