American River College is ranked third in this week's California Community College Football Coaches Association Northern California poll compiled by Fred Baer with Sierra College No. 9.
And how fitting.
ARC (7-2) plays host to the rival Wolverines (5-4) on Saturday at 1 p.m. with the Valley Conference championship on the line.
ARC last won a Valley title in 1967 when it went 10-0, but that factoid is also a bit misleading. It's not as if the Beavers stopped winning in subsequent decades. ARC played in different conferences. It went 10-1 in 2006 and11-0 last season in winning Mid-Empire League crowns.
But make no mistake. The Valley is nation's bruiser JC conferences, an A-level league that rewards winners with top-tier JC bowl games. ARC is ranked sixth in the state behind defending state champion City College of San Francisco, Mt. Sac, Ventura (led by former Sacramento State coach Steve Mooshagian), Riverside and Butte. San Francisco and Butte play on Saturday in a NorCal Conference title bout.
"Oh, it's been a blast playing in this conference," ARC coach Jerry Haflich said. "Everyone kept telling me the NorCal and Valley conferences were the best, and every single week, players are playing their fannies off. It's a great level of football, state-level football. Talk about a blast - a ton of peed, great athletes, great games, great finishes."
ARC had another great finish on Saturday, rallying to beat Sequoias 31-27 with a late 96-yard drive that was capped by the winning 15-yard touchdown run by Drake Tofi. It was the third consecutive week that ARC rallied from a double-digit second-half deficit.
ARC is tied for the Valley lead with Fresno City and Sierra, which beat Delta in double overtime on Saturday. The winner of the ARC-Sierra game could face the NorCal Conference winner. If it's San Francisco, that will provide a chance of payback for ARC, provided the Beavers take care of business on Saturday first. San Francisco, the longtime national power, beat ARC 52-33 on Sept. 29 to snap the Beavers' 22-game winning streak. The team that previously beat ARC was Sierra.
Mike Hicks played well for ARC against Sequoias, passing for 305 yards and two touchdowns, including a strike to Diondre Batson. Devontae Booker has rushed for 1,167 yards and 12 touchdowns for ARC. But Booker has been slowed a bit of late. In his first four games, the sophomore rushed for 800 yards and nine scores. Since the San Francisco loss and through four conference games, he has averaged 73 yards a game with one 100-yard effort. Then again, ARC has also implemented Baton, the Olympic Trials sprinter, into the mix for more balance.
Sierra and coach Jeff Tisdel have won three consecutive games, last losing to Fresno on Oct. 13. Myles McKee has passed for 1,936 tards and 26 touchdowns for Sierra. He has hit Vince Mayle for a state-leading 15 touchdowns. Sierra is led on defense by 6-3, 230-pound linebacker recruit Devante Bond, one of the state's top sack leaders with 14 with scholarship offers from Kentucky, Washington State, Fresno State and Oregon State.
"The kid just creates havoc," Tisdel said.
Sacramento City College is ranked No. 14 in NorCal, thanks in large part to the efforts of tailback Logan Lanier, who is eighth in the state in rushing with 1,247 yards and and six touchdowns.
NorCal Top 20 1. San Francisco 9-0 2. Butte 8-1 3. American River 7-2 4. Fresno 7-2 5. De Anza 7-2 6. Siskiyous 9-1 7. San Joaquin Delta 6-3 8. San Mateo 5-4 9. Sierra 5-4 10. Diablo Valley 5-4 11. Chabot 5-4 12. Modesto 4-5 13. Contra Costa 5-3 14. Sacramento 5-4 15. Sequoias 4-5 16. Laney 4-5 17 Hartnell 6-3 18. Santa Rosa 3-6 19. Los Medanos 6-3 20. Foothill 3-6 Others: Cabrillo (4-5), Reedley (3-6), Feather River (3-6), Mendocino (4- 5), Yuba (4-5).
State Top 25 1. San Francisco 9-0 2. Mt. San Antonio 9-0 3. Ventura 10-0 4. Riverside 8-1 5. Butte 8-1 6. American River 7-2 7. Bakersfield 7-2 8. Fresno 7-2 9. De Anza 7-2 10. Citrus 7-2 11. Santa Ana 7-2 12. Siskiyous 9-1 13. Delta 6-3 14. Southwestern 8-1 15. San Mateo 5-4 16. Saddleback 5-4 17. Mt. San Jacinto 8-1 18. Hancock 5-4 19. LA Harbor 5-4 20. Fullerton 5-4 21. Sierra 5-4 22. Santa Monica 8-1 23. Grossmont 5-4 24. Diablo Valley 5-4 25. LA Pierce 7-2. Others: Chabot (5-4), Modesto (4-5), Canyons (4-5), Antelope Valley (7-2), Contra Costa (6-3), Cerritos (4-5), Sacramento City (5-4), Hartnell (6-3), Sequoias (4-5).
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