El Cerrito hasn’t won anything yet, and the Marin Catholic (Kentfield) team that beat them in the CIF North Coast Section Division III title game last season still looms large on the horizon.
However, two things were highlighted in the way El Cerrito played in a 35-7 win over Cardinal Newman in Santa Rosa on Friday night. First, it’s pretty obvious why the Gauchos are the No. 1 team in the CIF NorCal Division III Bowl rankings, and secondly, if head coach Kenny Kahn has his boys playing this well or better come playoff time, its going to be hard for any Northern California D3 team to take them down.
El Cerrito (2-1) spotted the hosts a 7-0 lead, and although the score was tied 7-7 at the half, the offense exploded for 28 second half points and the defense played lockdown in the decisive victory.
Quarterback Keilan Benjamin passed for 255 yards and one TD, a 65-yard strike to Cal-committed Jalen Harvey. Benjamin also ran for 60 yards and another score. Recent UCLA commit Adarius Pickett blocked a field goal and returned it 67-yards for a touchdown, and also ran for a second score.
Cardinal Newman (2-1) got 154 yards passing from quarterback Keaton Dunsford, but he was constantly harassed by Harvey and the rest of the Gauchos defense. The result was he only completed 10-of-24 passes with 68 of the yards coming on one play, the lone Cardinals touchdown that went to Kevin Lucey.
“It was time to get the monkey off our back,” Kahn told Cal-Hi Sports.
The win took some of the sting out of the loss to Bellarmine two weeks ago, and left some wondering if Harvey had not had to sit out that game after receiving two unsportsmanlike penalties in the season-opening win at Sutter, the Gauchos very well might have won.
Benjamin refused to use Harvey’s absence as an excuse, instead focusing on the overall team effort..
“Unlike the Bellarmine game, things were clicking for us in the second half. We executed what we practiced all week.”
El Cerrito has one more non-league game on the road against another potential D3 playoff opponent, Campolindo of Moraga. Newman regroups for its North Bay League opener on the road in Ukiah in two weeks.