American River College’s football team is now ranked No. 1 in Northern California and is 3-1 after its 20-17 win over City College of San Francisco.
The team will will travel back down to the Bay Area again to play College of San Mateo (3-1), ranked No. 2 in NorCal before its loss to San Joaquin Delta College.
ARC quarterback Jihad Vercher said he doesn’t believe the traveling will be a challenge to the team.
“It’s a challenge of staying focused and knowing our job and our ability, knowing that we’re capable of a lot of good things,” said ARC quarterback Jihad Vercher.
ARC head coach Jon Osterhout said he doesn’t see any challenges in the back-to-back road trips.
“At the end of the day, there’s a certain comfort level because we went down to the Bay Area last year and we played on field turf,” said Osterhout.
“We played in the type of weather that the Bay Area presents, and it’s something for us to refer back to,” he said.
The game will be a rematch of last October’s game that vaulted ARC to the No. 1 spot in the state after a 24-14 win at home.
CSM is currently ranked No. 3 in the state in scoring with 43 points per game and 400 yards per game, 232 of which come on the ground.
Freshman CSM running backs Isiah Williams and Joey Wood have amassed 236 and 267 yards rushing total on the season.
“(The) main challenge is just staying with our keys and as long as we play they way we play (and) have been playing the last couple weeks, we should be more than fine. As long as we get to the ball, we should be fine,” said cornerback Leonard Nelson.
CSM features a run-first offense as its 53 first downs on the ground rank No. 1 in the state.
CSM is No. 10 at 5.1 yards per carry, No. 2 with 15 rushing touchdowns and No. 6 at 928 total rushing yards.
“With their kind of offense that’s kind of run, run, pass, (they) keep you on your heels. As a corner, you just need to stay aware they they’re going to try to shove it down your throat,” said Nelson.
CSM wide receiver Johnny Niupalu is ranked No. 7 in the state in yards per reception with 21.8 and is coming off a seven catch, 112 yard performance in the team’s 43-30 loss to SJDC last week.
CSM runs a triple option offense, which means that its quarterback has the option at the snap of the ball to keep the ball, hand it off to one of two running backs or pitch the ball to one of them.
“This week, it will be about angles and inches. If we’re able to cut off their angles and minimize their inches, we’ll be able to stop their run game,” said ARC defensive line coach Mason Mitchell.
Osterhout said that he has a lot of respect for CSM’s football program, which is coming off a 2014 season in which it defeated Laney College in the Bulldog Bowl last November.
“For the most part, it’s a typical San Mateo football team,” Osterhout said. “They’re going to try and control the ball and run the ball effectively out of the triple option, they’re going to play tough man to man defense on you and they’re extremely well coached in all three phases,” he continued.