Phil Thurman - Fullerton Sports Infomation Director
After a 33-year wait, the Fullerton College Hornets are once again state champions. Hosting American River College on Saturday, the Hornets held on to beat the Beavers, 29-27, winning their first title since 1983.
In its 100-year anniversary, Fullerton added the cherry on top by accomplishing the school's fourth state title and possibly a fourth national title.
The game began a little flat, and then ended with a bang making for a fantastic game between two worthy teams.
American River got on the board first at 11:52 in the first quarter on a low-riding, 41-yard field goal by kicker Max O'Rourke. The kick was a line-dive shot that would have made any baseball coach proud. It was also O'Rouke's longest field goal of the season.
In the second quarter, O'Rourke hurt the Hornets again hitting another field goal from 35 yards out at the 13:12 mark. This one was much more pretty to watch as it sailed through the uprights.
Down 6-0, the Hornet offense looked sleepy, until 12:01 in the second quarter when Jerome Gross caught a beautifully thrown pass from Jorday Hoy. After the successful PAT by Jonathan Aguilar, Fullerton had their first lead at 7-6.
With more than four minutes left in the half, Fullerton struck again when running back Phillip Butler burst through the middle for an 11-yard score.
The Beavers closed out the first half on a 62-yard strike from QB Giffin Dahn to receiver Arthur Jackson. The Hornets held a narrow 14-13 lead by halftime, and ARC served notice that they were not going away without a fight.
With a healthy 29-13 lead, Fullerton looked as if they had the game in the bag, until the Beavers offense got it going. With 13 second left in the third quarter, Dahn ran the ball hitting the pylon for a 6-yard touchdown scamper.
The Fullerton offense sputtered in the fourth quarter due to some excellent defense by American River. The Beavers put the ball in the end zone again with five minutes left on a 35-yard pass from Dahn to Jabarri Johnson as they pulled within two points.
Fullerton was unable to run out the clock giving ARC a chance to win the game with 1:42 left in regulation on their own 20-yard line. Dahn quickly went to work completing a 10-yard pass on the first play. Then he completed another for 11 yards for another first down.
With thoughts of ARC kicker Max O'Rourke possibly hitting the game winner, the crowd of 3,500 was on their feet. It was first down with the ball on the Beavers 41 when Dahn launched the ball into the air. Fullerton defensive back Taj Jones tracked it, making an over-the-shoulder interception at the Hornets' 10-yard line to end the threat.
The Hornets ran out the final 1:15 left on the clock to cap the state crown.
In their 100-year history only two head coaches have won state titles for Fullerton in legendary Hal Sherbeck and now Tim Byrnes.
MVP OF THE GAME - Jordan Hoy (QB Fulleron College)
OFFENSIVE MVP - Griffin Dahn (QB American River College)
DEFENSIVE MVP - Tyler Stepney (Fullerton College)
FULLERTON COLLEGE FOOTBALL STATE/NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES
1965 - Jr. Rose Bowl National Champions - W, 20-15 over Henderson, Texas at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA - Head Coach Hal Sherbeck
1967 - State & National Champions - W, 41-0 over American River College at Anaheim Stadium in Anaheim, CA - Head Coach Hal Sherbeck
1970 - State Runner-up - L, 24-21 to College of the Seqouias at Anaheim Stadium in Anaheim, CA - Head Coach Hal Sherbeck
1983 - State & National Champions - W, 28-7 over Taft College at Memorial Stadium in Bakersfield, CA - Head Coach Hal Sherbeck
1988 - State Runner-up - L, 30-24 to Bakersfield College at Memorial Stadium in Bakersfield, CA - Head Coach Hal Sherbeck
2013 - State Runner-up - L, 28-13 to Butte College at Cowan Sports Complex in Butte, CA - Head Coach Tim Byrnes
2016 - State Champions - W, 29-27 over American River College at Nathan Shapell Stadium in Yorba Linda, CA - Head Coach Tim Byrnes
*Photos by Matt Brown