It took a come from behind victory over the Hartnell College Panthers to complete a perfect 10-0 season for the 2018 Reedley College football team.
Randall R. Johnson and a bend but not break defense led Reedley to a 46-34 Saturday night victory over the 8-2 Hartnell College Panthers at Rabobank Stadium in Salinas.
Now a Saturday bowl game awaits the Golden Coast Conference champion Tigers. The California Community College Athletic Association announced on Sunday that Reedley will host the DeAnza College Dons at 1 pm Saturday at Reedley High School's Sal Gonzalez Field in the Northern California Football Association American Division championship game.
Since Reedley outscored DeAnza 57-47 back in the season opener in Cupertino, the Dons have put together nine straight wins. The latest was a wild 58-52 overtime victory over the Yuba College 49ers in Cupertino.
Reedley joined College of the Canyons and Riverside City as the only undefeated teams in the state this season. Reedley and Canyons met in the state championship game in 2002, won by the Tigers in their national championship 12-0 season.
But since Reedley is now an American Division team, they are no longer eligible for a state title.
Reedley and Hartnell combined for 1,030 yards of total offense on Saturday night. The Tigers had a balanced attack with 276 yards passing and 267 rushing for a total of 543. All but 37 of Hartnell's 487 yards came in the air as quarterback Isaiah Arielle-Randalle completed 35 of 55 for 450 yards and three touchdowns. Reedley's Johnson had one of his poorer percentage games, completing 14 of 38 passes for 221 yards and three touchdowns. Okera Hutchinson had two of those touchdown catches. One was a one-handed reception from 27 yards out. Daniel Baca had the other touchdown catch.
Johnson finished with 160 rushing yards in 25 attempts, which included touchdown runs of 1, 12 and 43 yards.
Reedley trailed 14-10 at halftime before taking the lead on a 16-yard scoring pass from Johnson to Hutchinson. Hartnell threatened to regain the lead before James Day intercepted a pass in the end zone. The Tigers increased the lead to 24-14 as Johnson connected with Hutchinson for a 27-yard score.
The two teams combined for 42 points in the fourth quarter alone. They traded touchdowns until just over two minutes left when Hartnell cut the lead to 38-34.
But the Tiger special teams came through and blocked a Panther extra point try. Raul S. Montalvo picked up the loose ball and sped 101 yards for two points to increase the Reedley lead to 40-34.
The Tigers took the ensuing kickoff with Johnson scoring on a 43-yard run to close out the scoring with 49 seconds remaining.
"This is an unbelievable accomplishment by a lot of people that have poured their heart and soul into this thing," said a happy head coach Eric Marty after the win. "It is exhilarating. It is a relief. We finished our ultimate goal and ultimate mission of winning the conference championship and winning it outright."
By: Will Goldbeck