The football season started in the heat of September at home, continues Saturday night at home in the chill of late fall and could finish close to home on familiar turf for American River College.
The top-seeded Beavers (10-1) entertain San Mateo (10-1) for the Northern California championship in a meeting of nationally ranked teams that met earlier this season. Kickoff is 6 p.m. Saturday.
ARC is ranked third in the state by the JC Athletic Bureau and fourth nationally by JCFootball.com, one spot ahead of San Mateo in both rankings.
The Beavers beat San Mateo 21-20 on a last-second blocked extra point on Sept. 30.
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ARC is in the NorCal finals for the third consecutive season under coach Jon Osterhout since the playoffs expanded to a NorCal and SoCal regional tournament. ARC lost to Fullerton in the state finals last season. Fullerton (11-0) is state and nationally ranked No. 1. The state finals this season will be at Hughes Stadium on Dec. 9.
San Mateo is playing for coach Larry Owens, in his 21st and final season with the school. San Mateo beat Siskiyous 52-3 in a NorCal opener while ARC downed Laney of Oakland 41-35.
ARC has been led by quarterback Hunter Rodrigues, who has passed for 2,009 yards and 22 touchdowns, and he has rushed for 373 yards and 13 scores. Evyn Holtz has rushed for 799 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Arthur Jackson has 41 receptions for 655 yards and 13 scores, and Ryan Robards has 486 yards and five scoring grabs. Robards was The Bee Player of the Year in 2015 from Elk Grove High School when he rushed for more than 2,300 yards. He attended Pacific in Stockton to play baseball as a freshman but missed football dearly.
JC football is a haven for late bloomers, the overlooked or those bouncing back from four-year programs.
ARC has been led on defense by linebacker Rahsaan York, who leads the team in tackles with 87, and defensive tackle Caleb Tremblay, a national recruit with serious interest from Alabama and Washington, among many. Tremblay said JC football, “completely gave me a new chance in football and school.”