FB: El Cerrito wins first CIFNCS title

Speed of El Cerrito, and in particular Adarius Pickett, is more than Marin Catholic can handle

The tone was set on the second play from scrimmage when UCLA-bound Adarius Pickett took a direct snap from the wildcat formation and raced 69-yards around left end to make it 7-0 El Cerrito.

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By the time he was done, the 5-11, 175-pounder that was recruited as a cornerback, rushed 20 times for 256 yards and scored four TDs, all from wildcat formations, in a 54-38 El Cerrito victory

The victory for No. 3 seed El Cerrito (12-2), in a driving rainstorm at Burrell Field in San Leandro, garners the school its first-ever CIF North Coast Section championship.

“We’ve had D1 college players and players that have gone on to the NFL, but never at the high school level have we done anything like this,” said sixth-year El Cerrito head coach Kenny Kahn, who played at his alma mater and now also teaches at El Cerrito.

Despite the final score appearing to make the game seem close, it really wasnt. El Cerrito led 27-3 at the half and 41-3 in the third quarter before they relaxed on defense or the game might have gone to a running clock.

Top-seeded Kentfield Marin Catholic (12-1) just didn’t have the answers for the speed of El Cerrito, particularly Pickett, who alluded multiple tacklers on several occasions and would have been well over 300 yards had two long runs not been called back due to penalties.

“When I have the ball in my hands sometime I feel unstoppable,” a beaming Pickett told Cal-Hi Sports.

El Cerrito quarterback Keilan Benjamin had three TD passes of 10, 35 and 19 yards, and all went to his twin brother Keith Benjamin.

Arizona State-bound Jalen Harvey made several bone-crushing tackles and also returned a bad pitch by Marin Catholic quarterback Morgan Mahalak 36-yards for a Gauchos touchdown.

The Oregon-bound Mahalak fought hard to the end. He led the Wildcats with 302 yards passing and three TDs, but the aggressive defense of El Cerrito flushed him from the pocket and sacked the 6-4, 202-pound senior three times.

Nevada Reno-signed Andrew Celis caught two of Mahalak’s TD passes (39 and 48 yards), both one-handed, and finished with 114 yards receiving. Sam Killpack added two Marin Catholic rushing scores.

El Cerrito erases a rain-drenched three-point loss to Marin Catholic in last year’s D3 title game, and is now the favorite to win a title when the teams vying for a CIF D3 NorCal Bowl game championship berth are announced on Sunday.

“Before the season started we promised ourselves we would win this thing,” Pickett remarked. “Just like last year it was raining down only this time we took care of business.”

West Valley of Cottonwood is already on the board along with El Cerrito for the NorCal D3 Bowl berth, and the chirping from the CIF Northern Section is that their boys deserve a shot at El Cerrito, however results on Saturday in the CIF Sac-Joaquin D4 final between Hilmar and Central Catholic, and the CIF Central Coast Section D4 final between Sacred Heart Prep of Atherton and Pacific Grove will have a big effect on who faces El Cerrito next weekend.

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