With a 35-14 home victory over Monterey Peninsula College last Saturday afternoon in Reedley, the 2018 Reedley College football team clinched a bowl berth and at least a tie for the Golden Coast Conference championship.
A win over an 8-1 Hartnell College Panthers squad in Salinas would give Head Coach Eric Marty's Tigers a perfect 10-0 season.
On paper, it looks as if the Reedley defense will have to stop Hartnell quarterback Isaiah Ariolla-Randalle, who threw for 418 yards and six touchdowns in the Panthers' 51-26 home rout over Los Medanos College last Saturday.
The 6pm contest will be a matchup of two of the state's top quarterbacks in Reedley's Randall Johnson and Hartnell freshman Ariolla-Randalle. All Johnson has done this season is complete 66 percent of his passes for 2,275 yards and 21 touchdowns. The sophomore from Los Angeles is also the Tigers' leading rusher with 680 yards and 11 scores.
In the win over Monterey, Johnson was responsible for all five Tiger touchdowns, throwing to Okera Hutchinson, Brittavious Garcia, and Nick Clarke while also recording touchdown runs of 3 and 14 yards.
Reedley never trailed in the contest. A week earlier, the Lobos rolled to a 61-33 win over Hartnell, handing the Panthers their only loss of the season.
In the win over Los Medanos, Ariolla-Randalle broke the school's single-season passing record with 3,409 yards, exactly 200 yards ahead of the previous record. He is also one touchdown pass short of tying the school mark for most touchdown passes in a season.
Two of the Hartnell quarterback's top receivers were teammates at Sacramento High School although the QB missed his senior season with an injury.
"It feels amazing to know that we are very close to accomplishing our ultimate goal," said Coach Marty after the win over Monterey. "At the end of the day, we guarantee ourselves a share of the conference title and guarantee that we will play in a bowl game. There's a lot of nerves going into a game like this because we understand how good a program Monterey is and how good they've been. We worked really, really hard to get ourselves to a point where we are a championship caliber ball club and our kids stepped up in a big way.
"Everyone is working together as a team," said freshman running back Jamon Chambers, "doing everything thing we do on and off the field. Everything is good."
Reedley is a Northern California American Division team and is not eligible for a state championship. The last postseason game that Reedley played was a Northern California playoff game at College of San Mateo in 2009. Eleven of the state's 15 postseason games are games are scheduled for Nov. 17, according to the California Community College Athletic Association website. There are Northern Division championship games scheduled in both Northern and Southern California on Nov. 17. There is also the State Center Bowl, which has been played in Reedley in the past.
An official announcement on who and where Reedley will play on Nov. 17 is expected on Sunday.
Going into the Monterey Peninsula game, Reedley was ranked 14th in the State in the latest rankings and first in the Northern Cal American Division poll. If the Tigers get past Hartnell, they will have defeated the second through the eighth-place teams in the National Division rankings.
The combined record of Reedley's 10 opponents is 50-46.
By Will Goldbeck