When it was over, and there was nothing more to prove or to play for, Jon Osterhout called his American River College football team for one final talk.
The first-year coach had the attention of every player on the roster, a sea of empty eyes meeting his moist ones, everyone trying to comprehend a season of great promise that came up just short. The focus spoke of the admiration and respect the players have for their boss.
After missing two field goals in otherwise perfect conditions, San Francisco City College kicker Cristian Antezana was sure that the third time was the charm. He drilled a 41-yarder with six seconds left to lift the storied Rams past the Beavers 17-14 in the California Community College Northern California Regional Championship on Saturday afternoon.
It’s the 14th such title for San Francisco under coach George Rush and 11th since 2000. The Rams (11-1) now seek their sixth state banner since 2000 and eighth overall. San Francisco also targets the program’s 10th national title and seventh with Rush.
Two years removed from a last-play heartache loss to San Francisco on this very field for the same stakes, ARC (10-2) eagerly awaits its breakthrough, though Osterhout and his returning players vow it’s just a matter of time. ARC has made tremendous strides, having experienced 10-1 seasons and 0-10 campaigns in the past 10 years, gradually moving up from the B-level classification of football to the elite A-level.
ARC was state-ranked No. 1 for several weeks this season, a program first, as Osterhout expertly blended scores of players from different regional high schools with varying backgrounds. Some athletes had never competed for a championship, never mind played on a winning program.
“It was a great year, a fun year, and that’s why this is such a tough pill to swallow,” said Osterhout, the onetime All-America lineman from Sacramento State. “It was a heavyweight battle with two very good teams. We continued to battle, continued to fight to the finish. They made one more play than we did. It’s hard to beat a good team twice. We have a lot to be proud of. We understood the opportunity here.”
ARC was looking forward to this showdown as much as San Francisco was eager for redemption. The Beavers handed the Rams their lone setback, 13-0 on Sept. 27, the only shutout in Rush’s 38-year coaching career here.
Every first down was earned as the clubs combined for 21 punts. Jeremiah Peralta had two touchdown passes for San Francisco. Tanner Trosin hit Aaron Young for a 37-yard scoring play for a 7-7 tie late in the first half, and Damion Sanders gave ARC its only lead on a 96-yard fumble recovery for a score with 11:12 left to play.
ARC managed just 33 rushing yards, 167 passing and nine first downs. Osterhout told his players that the Beavers won as a team and lost as a team. There were no scapegoats, and no finger pointing would be allowed.
Moments later, slumped alone on the bench, Trosin said he accepted his share of the miscues, explaining, “I take it personal. Wanted to win so bad. Just came up short.”
Osterhout said a playoff system for NorCal JC football to match that of Southern California was long overdue, saying, “It’s a beautiful thing, especially the players and fans. It’s great to see this, to really determine the best teams.”
Trosin, The Bee’s 2011 Player of the Year from Folsom High School, said the program is in good hands with Osterhout.
“He has all of our respect,” Trosin said. “He got us started. He’s very impressive.”
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.