Delta College (7-4) claimed the Mustangs first bowl victory since 2012 against the American River College Beavers (7-4) with an overtime score of 24-17 at Beaver Stadium on Nov. 21.
“I’m just really proud of them and thought they competed really hard,” said Head Coach Gary Barlow in his 11th postseason bowl appearance in 15 seasons at Delta College. “… We’ve finished the year winning five games in a row and every single one of them was close.”
The Gridiron Classic was no different. The score tied 7-7 at the end of the first half after a series of turnovers from both teams kept the offenses from creating momentum.
“They (Delta defense) played well. Had a lot of turnovers and they gave us opportunities,” said sophomore quarterback Phillip Kimble. “We stalled honestly, they came up with the big plays when we needed it, they kept them out of the endzone and that’s what saved us this game.”
The Beavers defense was unable to keep Gridiron Classic Most Valuable Player Jamill Thomas out of the endzone in the second half as Thomas scored on a six-yard rushing touchdown to take a 14-7 lead over the Beavers with 6:05 left in the quarter.
Thomas finished with 32 carries for 143 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
“I took advantage of my opportunity. I took advantage of what my O-line gave me,” said Thomas. “When they push … You’ve got to take advantage of that, you can’t let them do that for no reason.”
American River responded by scoring 10 unanswered points by way of a Jihad Vercher six-yard touchdown pass to Jonathan Lopez and a Sam Keil 43-yard field goal to take a 17-14 lead with 4:24 remaining in the game.
Through timely defense, the Mustangs forced a turnover on a down three minutes and 50 seconds later which allowed Joel Chavez to kick a 33-yard game tying field goal to send the game into overtime.
“We knew that coming into this game we had to work hard,” said sophomore defensive back Christian Valeros. “We know these last five games all came down to either the offense or the defense and we knew our defense had to make plays and we made those plays.”
The Mustangs entered overtime and immediately scored as Kimble completed a 24-yard touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Andre Lindsey.
The Beavers failed to answer with a touchdown, allowing Delta to clinch the victory and the bowl game championship.
“Going out 7-4, a Gridiron Classic Bowl, five-game winning streak and a ring on my finger,” said Kimble. “I couldn’t be any more happier. I love this team.”
Delta will now work towards winning back-to-back bowl games for the first time since the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
“We’re coming back strong for next season,” proclaimed Thomas.