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JC X-Factors: No. 5 American River at No. 15 Shasta College

Shasta College defensive tackle Detrius Kelsall is one of the leaders of the Knights' defense and has a tough task ahead in American River College Saturday. (Mike Daly/Shasta County Sports)

Shasta College’s football team faces off Saturday against No. 5 American River College at 6 p.m. in the Sierra Pacific Industries College Game of the Week. The 15th ranked Knights are 4-0 at home and it’s the final home game of the season.

The Knights are also holding their fourth annual Shining Knight Toy Drive at the game, asking fans to bring a new and unwrapped toy to the game and each person who brings a toy will get free admission to the game. All toys will be donated to local charities.

Here are a few impact players to keep an eye on for Saturday’s game.

QB — Marco Baldacchino (El Dorado Hills), American River, So.
Baldacchino leads the Beaves in passing and rushing at 1,044 and 348 yards, respectively, and threw both touchdown passes in the 14-7 win over Butte last week. American River’s offense might not be what it was last year but the Beavers are 6-2 and the experience of Baldacchino has to be a reason why. Last year’s game against Shasta, he threw for 330 yards and four touchdowns in the 44-17 win. So far in 2019, Baldacchino has only thrown seven touchdowns to go with six interceptions.

LB — Justin Houlihan (Grass Valley), American River, So.
The Beavers’ leading tackler with 65 stops is a monster for this defense which is allowing only 16 points per game — the lowest amount of any opponent Shasta has faced this year. He’s seventh in the state in tackles and had nine in last week’s win over Butte. With Shasta wanting to run the ball, that puts the pressure on Houlihan to deliver for the Beavers.

QB — Hokulani Wickard (Lower Lake), Shasta, So.
Shasta committed to being more physical with the run game the second half of the season. But against a tough defense like American River, it will be up to Wickard to keep the Beaver defense honest with his arm. The second-year signal caller hasn’t taken many shots downfield this year but hasn’t really needed to with  the Knights having the opportunity to call a conservative game plan due to its ferocious defense. That might change in this game as Wickard is going to force ARC to back off the line of scrimmage a little bit to open things up for Matt McCree, Vinny Smith and Tyler Boston. That also means receivers James Lee, Ivan Smith, Kentrell Petite, Brandon Morris and tight end Jusiah Gabel are going to get looks Saturday and they’re going to have to come down with them.

DT — Detrius Kelsall (Redding-Shasta), Shasta, So.
A smashmouth type of football game means the defense has to be at its best. Kelsall, one of JUCO’s best interior lineman in the state, is going to have to be a monster for the Knights to pull off the upset. He has the athleticism to make open field tackles and be an impact player away from the line of scrimmage and he can wreak havoc on the inside. Often the guy that gets a sack gets all of the credit, but Kelsall draws major attention to free up his teammates and can still be a menacing difference maker in the end result. On the year, Kelsall has 30 tackles on the year, 6.5 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks to go with an interception.

Others
WR — Eric Davis, Jr. (Folsom), American River, So.
DB — Jamie Cousey (Sacramento), American River, So.
RB — Matt McCree (Milton, Ga.), Shasta, So.
LB — Adonis Thomas (Silsbee, Texas), Shasta, So.

Staff Reports is content produced by the Shasta County Sports team.

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