Call them whatever you want, but these Beavers know drama.
“We feel that we can come back and battle and never give up,” American River College freshman wide receiver J’Juan Muldrow said.
Thanks in part to a two-game losing streak by San Joaquin Delta College—the lone Valley Conference loss for ARC—the Beavers (7-2 overall, 3-1 Valley) are now in a three way tie for first place. ARC holds the tie-breaker over Fresno (7-2 overall, 3-1 Valley) and a win would give Sierra College (5-4, 3-1) a second conference loss.
So, win, and the Beavers are Valley champions.
“It should be a whale of a game,” ARC head coach Jerry Haflich said. “It should be a great conference title game. It should be that way. We aren’t the ACC or the SEC. But right now, we are representing the Northern California Football Association and the Valley Conference.”
A month removed from two straight losses to No. 1 state ranked City College of San Francisco and Delta, the Beavers have used three straight double-digit second half deficits to stay atop the conference.
The winner of the Valley will play at the winner of the NorCal conference. CCSF, who beat ARC on Sept. 29 to snap a 22-game win streak for the Beavers, plays Butte College Saturday for the title.
If a rematch with CCSF is on their minds, players and coaches aren’t talking about it.
“We are just focusing on Sierra,” Muldrow said. “This week is about them.”
In cardiac style that would send even the most even keel coach to grow frantic, the Beavers have overcome double-digit deficits in the last three games to do the Beavers controlled the one aspect of the playoff outcome—win games.
“The player’s belief is huge,” Haflich said. “In each of those game on the sidelines at halftime, there is no panic in their eyes. Just simply asking for direction and giving input.”
On the road on Oct. 20, the Beavers down 21-10 with six minutes, 51 seconds left in the third quarter, rallied behind a career night for quarterback Jonathan Kodama (397 yards, 4 TD passes), including a 15-yard pass to Tyler Trosin with 2:15 left in the game to take the lead.
Then Kodama hurts his foot in the win and Mike Hicks takes over the reigns as the signal caller.
In a good old fashion shootout, ARC, down 35-14 with 2:04 left in the third, scored 42 unanswered points at home to take the lead for good with a one-yard run by Antonio Bumpers with just over a minute left in the third. ARC beat Modesto 56-49.
Last week in Visalia, down 27-10 with six minutes left in the third, ARC was faced with a fourth and 14 on their own four yard line with less than three minutes to play and trailing by three points to College of Sequoias.
Hicks, who started the final drive throwing three incompletions, shook off a defender around his legs in the end zone on fourth down and fired a completion to Ference Lang for a first down. Hicks then completed 5 of 7 passes on the drive as Drake Tofi scored on a 15-yard run to give the Beavers the lead with 1:10 left in the game.
Justin Lata intercepted a last second attempt by COS to seal the victory.
Now with the crosstown rivalry with a new found relevancy, Saturday’s season finale brings Sacramento region community college football to the forefront.
“It’s Sierra. The rivalry between the two schools runs deep,” Beavers sophomore lineback Samson Faifili said. “It’s also a big game because it will be ARC’s third consecutive championship and a shot at the state title.”