Categorized | Sports

El Cerrito High Weathers Storm, Dominates Richmond, 32-2

BY MATT DURNING //

The rain poured down. A cold wind blew. The scoreboard even stopped working.

It wasn’t pretty, but the El Cerrito Gauchos manhandled the Richmond Oilers, 32-2, in a soggy, sloppy, grueling contest of force and determination on the first Saturday of November.

“The elements always change the chemistry of a football team,” said El Cerrito head coach Kenny Kahn after the game. “I was happy to see my team was able not only to keep their composure but also go out there and have some fun in the wet atmosphere.”

Wet would be an understatement. Following nearly 24 hours of a steady downpour prior to game time, by kick off the El Cerrito High football field looked more like a pond than a playing field. Within minutes, the stampede of players’ cleated feet had churned the once lush green surface into a barren, muddy swampland.

The messy field conditions forced both teams to become one-dimensional. The teams combined for only four pass attempts in what became an old-fashioned, smash mouth ground battle.

El Cerrito running back Reonte Reed, No. 8, got the scoring started in the first quarter with a 9-yard touchdown run. Kicker Jose Fuentes hit the extra point to make it 7-0.

On a second quarter drive that began well inside Richmond territory, four different players – Reed, Armoni Broussard, Lyonel Louis, and quarterback Andre Williams – each carried the ball for the Gauchos. The drive ended with an 8-yard touchdown run by Williams to put El Cerrito ahead 13-2 with roughly five minutes left in the half.

El Cerrito’s defense was equally dominant, limiting the Oilers to an anemic 29 yards of total offense and preventing them from scoring all together.

Richmond’s only points came on a safety in the first quarter when the Gaucho quarterback took an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone rather than risk a fumble.

Coach Kahn credited his defense with setting the tone for the entire team.

“Our defense is our anchor,” Kahn said. ““I really like starting out on defense because it helps to get our team pumped up and get aggressive. I have to give credit to both [defensive coordinator] Coach Shaughnessy and [defensive line] Coach Johnson for getting the right personnel, the right play calls. They know how to make it happen.”

The wet weather and muddy conditions made it extremely difficult for either team to hold onto the ball. With eight combined fumbles, the action on the field often resembled a rugby match more than a football game.

The most exciting turnover of the fist half occurred during a Richmond punt late in the second quarter.

Gaucho defender Jerry Smith, No. 45, broke through the Oiler line, blocked the kick, and ran it back 15 yards for a touchdown putting his team ahead 19-2.

“The first time they punted I was like an inch away from getting it,” said Smith. “The second time they punted I’m like, ‘forget it, I’m gonna go up and get it’. I hit the hole, next thing I know he [the kicker] hit me. I picked it up, ran for it, next thing I know I’m in the end zone.”

Gaucho players watch from the muddy sidelines

Unfortunately for Richmond, the second half only provided more of the same.

El Cerrito’s backup quarterback Byron Thomas, No. 84, completed one of the game’s only pass plays, a 24-yard pass to wide receiver Isaac Goins. Running back Armoni Broussard, No. 1, the game’s leading rusher with 76 yards on seven carries, finished the drive with a strong 11-yard touchdown run, expanding the Gaucho lead to 25-2.

Gaucho quarterback Andre “Bird” Williams made two of the game’s most impressive athletic plays on a single drive late in the third quarter.

First, he returned a punt 55 yards to the Richmond 15-yard line. Unable to move the ball further, the Gauchos decided to attempt a 37-yard field goal. Fuentes took the field and prepared to kick, Williams as his holder. But when the ball was snapped, Williams lost his grip and couldn’t get the ball set in time for Fuentes to kick.

“It slipped out of my hands when I tried to get it down,” Williams said. “After that I tried to make something happen. I saw the opening and I just ran with it. “

Williams ran backwards, then laterally across the field, to avoid the oncoming defenders. After turning the corner, he exploded up the sideline and passed the rest of the players as if they were in slow motion. Williams wasn’t tackled until he had crossed the goal line for the Gauchos’ fifth touchdown of the afternoon.

“It’s kind of unfair sometimes because Bird can run fast even in slippery weather like this,” Coach Kahn said after the game.

Williams attributed his remarkable performance to past experience playing in poor conditions.

“Since I was little, like eight years old, I’ve been playing in mud and dirt,” he said. “I’m pretty used to it.”

Fuentes hit the extra point to put the Gauchos on top 32-2, the game’s final score.

Throughout the game, four dedicated and upbeat cheerleaders supported the Gauchos from the first row of bleachers. In matching green and black tracksuits, winter hats, gloves, and holding umbrellas, they cheered in unison.

“Raise your hands, stomp your feet, snap your fingers, these Gauchos can’t be beat.”

Gaucho cheerleaders: wet but still upbeat.

Their steady encouragement seemed directed more at the loyal crowd of roughly 30 parents and friends huddled together under umbrellas and waterlogged blankets, bracing against the elements.

Back in the locker room after the game, Coach Kahn acknowledged the fans.

“They are a tremendous support system and players know that,” Kahn said. “Each and every player, when they come out, are looking – no matter how small the crowd is, we know they’re going to be loud and supportive and we as a football team really appreciate that.”

Today’s victory marks El Cerrito’s fifth consecutive win, after starting the season 0-3, and moves them into a tie with the Berkeley High Yellowjackets atop the Alameda-Contra Costa Athletic League (ACCAL) standings with a league record of 4-0.

When El Cerrito and Berkeley face off in the final game of the regular season on Nov. 14, the league title will likely be on the line.

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