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November 30, 2013

Gauchos win rematch, advance

El Cerrito, Elk Grove and De La Salle punched return tickets to their respective championship games on Friday night. See how they won semi-final matchups, including another stout defensive effort by the Gauchos and a late drive from the Thundering Herd.

For the second straight year, El Cerrito has clinched one of the spots in the North Coast Section Division III finals after beating Campolindo 49-34. The win avenged a regular season loss to the Cougars and was set up by a strong running game and a well-rounded defense.

Behind a multi-runner attack, the Gauchos ran for 313 yards to control the flow of the game. Adarius Pickett rushed for 135 yards and a score while quarterback Keilan Benjamin finished with 67 yards, including a number of key runs. James Houston added 65 yards and a score with Keith Benjamin chipping in a 39 yard touchdown run in the first half.

It wasn't all the ground game as Derik Calhoun capped a 15 yard touchdown catch with a leap into the end zone to start the scoring off. Jalen Harvey added a pair of touchdown catches and a 72 yard punt return to virtually ice the game midway through the fourth quarter.

Campolindo never led in suffering its first loss of the year. Andrew Zolintakis threw for 290 yards and three touchdowns with 134 yards and a score to Justin Dunn. However, the Cougars only ran for 23 yards and finished with 313 total yards with much of the damage coming in the fourth quarter.

"We don't give up too many points. We don't give up too many yards. I will say tonight, it was a surprise (Zolintakis) was able to get to the air. It obviously opens up where we need to go to work is our pass defense," El Cerrito head coach Kenny Kahn said. "Our run defense is great and our pass defense can be better."

El Cerrito will face the winner of Marin Catholic-Analy next week with a section title and likely regional bowl spot on the line. Douglas Benton

Elk Grove survives road test

Both teams featured a physical quarterback, a strong front seven on defense and two of the best backs in the area. Despite being bottled up on offense most of the night, Elk Grove defeated host Rio Linda 22-14 to advance to its second straight Sac-Joaquin Section Division II title game.

The Knights came out using their junior star running back Marcel Brown, who had 123 first quarter yards including a 45 yard touchdown run at the end of the quarter. Rio Linda followed up with a one yard touchdown run by Leonard Skattebo to take a 14-0 first half lead. Elk Grove only had 12 offensive plays in the first half for 23 yards as the Knights' defensive front controlled the line of scrimmage. The Herd did get on the board with a forced fumble and recovery by Noah Letuligasenoa Ta'amu and return of 69 yards for a touchdown. This made the halftime tally 14-7 Rio Linda.

Rio Linda continued its time of possession edge as it went on 13 and 11 play drives, but did not generate points. The Knights pinned Elk Grove down when their punt went out at the 5 yard line with just 4:53 left in the game. At that point Elk Grove went on its only drive of the night culminating with two runs by Spencer Sheff. The last one a 16 yard touchdown. At this point, Elk Grove head coach Chris Nixon chose to go for a 2-point conversion and the lead, which was successful with Sheff taking it in to make it 15-14.

The final score was triggered from an interception by Tommy Arnold and then a 30 yard run from Arnold to make it 22-14. Arnold saw time at quarterback, running back and linebacker as well as kickoff coverage and returns. Arnold said after the game that "I have been starting for 3 years and coach depends on me to be in shape and make plays."

Next up for Elk Grove will be a date with Del Oro, which defeated Yuba City 52-26 Friday night. This will be for the Division II title. Michael Benton

Spartans cruise to another section final

De La Salle did not shutout its opponent the way it did in each of its last two games, but the result remained the same. The Spartans defeated the Wolverines 57-27, improving to a perfect 12-0 on the season and advancing to the NCS Championship game.

While the game finished as a one-sided contest, it was close early. The Wolverines took a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter, but two plays later the Spartans tied the game. At the end of the first half, Deer Valley's early lead was all but forgotten as De La Salle lead 43-14.

Senior running back John Velasco led the Spartans offensive attack with 151 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.

Although senior quarterback Nsimba Webster and the rest of the Wolverines offense, was able to make plays, the De La Salle defense - which had shutout California and Granada in the team's previous two contests - stepped up when it counted.

The Spartans will look to win their 22nd consecutive NCS title on December 7 when they play the winner of Pittsburgh and California. William Boor


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