Caleb Tremblay is a nice chap only when his helmet rests in his hands, all shy manners and grins.
When fully padded up, he is a terror in the trenches – 6-foot-5 and 280 pounds of run-stuffing, quarterback-chasing fury for American River College, ranked No. 3 in California.
It’s no wonder the defensive lineman has the recruiting interest of Alabama, Oregon and Washington, to name three of a swelling list of suitors for the sophomore from Napa. Tremblay set a physical tone Saturday night at Hughes Stadium in what could be billed as the 916 Bowl against rival Sacramento City College.
The Beavers stormed out to a 31-10 lead and earned a 38-24 victory over the sixth-ranked Panthers in a typically entertaining National NorCal Conference contest dripping of more than just regional bragging rights.
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On hand for a peek was Washington coach Chris Petersen, who fondly recalled his Sac City days in the early 1980s before embarking on a record-setting passing career at UC Davis.
“It’s a fight in the trenches and we all play hard,” Tremblay said, smiling. “I’m having a good time. I didn’t have any scholarship offers out of high school but I’ve put the work in.”
Tremblay has become a student to match his outlandish football ability, leading ARC coach Jon Osterhout to say earlier this season of his stopper, “He’s a freak show, unblockable. Big-time programs are on him like a dog on rawhide.”
On Saturday, Osterhout praised his entire team, be it Hunter Rodrigues, who passed 207 yards and hit Arthur Jackson for two touchdowns, or tailback Evyn Holtz, who ran for 127 yards and two scores. The defense, under coordinator Lou Baiz, came up with four interceptions and six turnovers to stymie Jayden Machado, who passed for 383 yards and three touchdowns.
Osterhout said Tremblay is the sort of athlete that can flourish at the JC level, a haven for the overlooked or academic underachiever.
“He’s as good as advertised,” Osterhout said. “He’s a dominant player. He’s also our deep snapper and long snapper. Can do it all. We have a lot of guys like that.”
ARC (6-1) and Sac City (6-1) aim to return to Hughes Stadium as the Northern California representative for this level’s biggest prize. The venerable facility, opened in 1923, is the host site for the California Community College State Championship game in December.
ARC played for the title last season, losing a heartbreaker to Fullerton, which has yet to relinquish its No. 1 state ranking.
Before Saturday, ARC and Sac City have never faced off ranked among the top five teams in California, a credit to what Osterhout has done and what Dannie Walker has accomplished at Sac City.
Both rosters are predominantly heavy on local recruits. Sac City finished state No. 1 in 1980 and ’81 under coach Jerry Sullivan while also earning national No. 1 finishes. ARC emerged as the regional JC power in the last decade, feeding off energized environments like Saturday.
JC ball also affords a chance to blend in real life, too. ARC will will host Sierra next Saturday with a theme of breast cancer awareness. Osterhout’s wife, Alison, is a breast cancer survivor and she was booming of good cheer at Hughes Stadium.
“She’s my hero,” Osterhout said. “She’s my everything, my rock. And no question, she’s the best athlete in the family, a lefty multisport player. Way out of my kickoff coverage.”