The first time these teams met, in September, a blocked extra point in the closing seconds was the difference as American River College escaped the Bay Area with a one-point victory.
On Saturday night in Sacramento, the stakes were much higher, and the end result even more emphatic.
A missed field goal from 27 yards by Julian Diaz with 20 seconds to go, just wide left, was the difference as San Mateo beat ARC 24-21 in the California Community College Northern California championship.
ARC (10-2) was the defending champion and expected to prevail here to earn a shot against national No. 1 Fullerton in the state championship on Dec. 9 at Hughes Stadium. Fullerton beat the Beavers in the state final last season.
Cameron Taylor rushed for 201 yards and two touchdowns for San Mateo (11-1), and Shawn Akina passed for 136 yards and a score. San Mateo has a storied history with scores of players landing in the NFL, including Julian Edelman, now a receiver with the New England Patriots.
Edelman was a dual-threat quarterback for San Mateo in 2005, and he stopped by practice this week for a rousing pep talk, invited to do so by retiring coach Larry Owens, in his 21st season with the program. San Mateo last won a NorCal title in 2009.
Hunter Rodrigues passed for 182 yards and an 11-yard touchdown to Devin Brocchini for ARC, and the sophomore ran for 105 yards, including a 5-yard score to account for the final score with 1:44 left.
Johnny Cooley rushed for 57 yards for ARC. Diaz drilled field goals of 21 and 27 yards for ARC. Rahsaan York led ARC with 10 tackles, and Kalen Meder had eight. Meder blocked the extra point against San Mateo in September.