The City College football team experienced its first speed bump Oct. 21 on its road to a NorCal Conference title.
The American River College Beavers, a heavy favorite to win the NorCal crown, came into Hughes Stadium and handed City its first loss of the year, ending the Panthers’ best start to a season since the late ‘90s.
The 38-24 loss moved the Panthers to 6-1 on the season (1-1 in league), as ARC took sole possession of first place in the NorCal Conference.
City head coach Dannie Walker said that it all came down to ARC’s ability to capitalize on the Panthers’ mistakes.
“We’ve got to take that as a lesson and take it on the chin,” said Walker. “We made too many mistakes. We played with a lot of emotion in the first half. It just came down to what adjustments are being made.”
American River and City College were ranked first and second, respectively, in the latest Northern California region, according to the California Community College Regional State poll.
During Saturday’s game, the Panthers were down by 21 points entering the fourth quarter, but they cut ARC’s lead to a one-score deficit within a span of 12 seconds on the game clock.
With nine minutes to go, Carl Marc’s diving catch fell just shy of the end zone, but it set the Panthers up for a 1-yard strike from Jayden Machado to Roy Sanders, dropping the ARC lead to 14. The Beavers fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and the Panthers recovered at the ARC 18-yard line. The next play saw Machado throw one up for Marc to bring it down again in the corner of the end zone.
Suddenly, the Panthers were rejuvenated, but it was short-lived.
ARC responded with Lenny Nelson’s second of three game interceptions, leading to a 29-yard score from Hunter Rodrigues to Arthur Jackson. It was Jackson’s second receiving touchdown of the game, and it gave the Beavers some breathing room at 38-24 with six minutes to play.
“We kept clawing and clawing,” said Walker. “No matter how much time was on the clock, we felt like we were in it.”
The ARC defense negated City’s usually effective run game. Panther running back Daniel Wright accounted for 82 yards on the ground, but as a team, City netted only 78 yards rushing.
Beaver defensive linemen Adam Lopez and Kaleb Meder led huge stops in key scoring opportunities for the Panthers, including a pass breakup by Lopez that Meder reeled in for an interception in the second quarter.
Both teams were able to put points on the board on each drive in the first quarter.
After an ARC 23-yard field goal gave the Beavers a 3-0 lead, City put together an impressive, six-play, 78-yard drive. An 11-yard touchdown pass from Machado to Tayvian Cunningham gave the Panthers a 7-3 lead.
The Beavers took the lead as Rodrigues pushed his way into the end zone on a keeper that put ARC up 17-10 after one quarter.
Evyn Holtz’s 10-yard run put the Beavers up 24-10 after he leapt over a Panther defender into the end zone. A botched snap that sailed over punter Elijah Siemering’s head gave ARC an extra scoring opportunity just before the end of the first half. The Beavers capitalized with a 15-yard strike from Rodrigues to Jackson, increasing their lead to 21 points at halftime.
“We had to humble ourselves,” said City defensive lineman TJ Tiatia. “We gave up 31 points in the first half. That tells me our defense was not focused enough. We have to come back with more energy and focus.”
Machado was 22-of-41 with 383 yards, three TDs and four interceptions. Marc finished with five catches for 132 yards. Terrance March led the Panthers with 13 tackles and a sack on defense.
The Beavers have won their last eight meetings with the Panthers. City’s last win over ARC was a 54-51 victory in 2009.
City has three games remaining on the schedule, beginning with two consecutive road games at College of Siskiyous on Oct. 28, and Feather River on Nov. 4, before returning to Hughes Stadium in the regular season finale Nov. 11 against Butte College.
For more stats and info on SCC football, visit sccpanthers.losrios.edu/sports/fball.