EL CERRITO — The sunset on the campus of El Cerrito High on Friday evening slowly gave way to the lights of the many houses that seem to crawl up the hillside near the school’s football field.
Meanwhile, the many local residents packing the stands had a chance to watch one of the North Coast Section’s top new teams as Vintage High handled the always dangerous Gauchos, 29-9, to improve to 2-0 on the season.
“I thought we were gritty,” said Vintage head coach Dylan Leach, whose team was ranked 17th in Prep2Prep.com’s NCS Top 25 Rankings of Aug. 23. “I think we made some mistakes early, but they were well-coached. They came out with a different scheme that we hadn’t seen and were calling out some of our plays. I think that we just kind of had a little bit more to us tonight.”
Despite a scoreless first quarter, the Crushers kept up with El Cerrito’s athleticism and speed while neutralizing its big-play potential.
Vintage opened the scoring early in the second quarter when Pedja Zivkovic carried multiple defenders with him into the end zone on a 2-yard touchdown run, and the Crushers converted the two-point-conversion to go up 8-0.
A key drive for the Crushers came later in the second quarter when an apparent 40-yard touchdown pass was called back for Vintage having a lineman downfield, but the Crushers quickly made up for their mistake.
Junior quarterback Jacob Aaron forced his way into the end zone from 2 yards out to cap off the drive a few plays later. On the two-point-conversion, Aaron found Bryce Eade with a shovel pass and the senior completed a pass himself to Cutler Low in the back of the end zone to make it 16-0.
Even the passionate home announcer was impressed with the Crushers’ trickery.
“Anytime you have a big play like that and your emotions are high and you get a play like that taken away, it’s tough,” Leach said. “We talk all the time over here in the program about staying even-keeled. This game is emotional and you can’t be emotional; you have to have passion. There is a big difference between emotion and passion.
“So what we try to do is to have passion for the game. Trust the systems, trust the process, and understand that we will score again.”
The Gauchos looked to jump back into the contest after the halftime break, but the Crushers’ defense was fresh all evening. El Cerrito was within striking distance, but was forced to attempt a long field goal. Andre Fernandez blasted the 41-yard attempt through the uprights with ease, bringing the Gauchos to within 16-3.
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It didn’t take long for Vintage to crush any momentum the hosts had, though. A 21-yard gain by Mauricio Castro on the first play of the drive set up a 14-yard quarterback keeper by Aaron for a score, as the junior left an El Cerrito defender on the ground after a nasty spin move.
The Vintage offensive line was huge all game, as well, with the underestimated unit showing it could potentially be one of the best around.
“This game hasn’t changed since 1890 and it’s all about right up front, and we all know that,” Leach said. “A lot of people came into this season talking about, ‘Oh, you know now they’re weak because of their line.’ But no, that isn’t going to be the case. I trust our line coaches and I trust these kids and they work their butts off in the weight room.”
El Cerrito scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but Dylan Smith ended any hopes of a comeback for the Gauchos. The sophomore running back took the ball from Aaron and found a seam in the middle of the field and burst his way to a 24-yard touchdown.
The Crushers face a steep challenge next Friday when they host Acalanes (2-0). The Dons are ranked as a Top 20 team in the NCS by Prep2prep.com and won their first two games 75-6 and 44-14, respectively.
Vintage JV 38, El Cerrito 0
The Crushers improved to 2-0, finishing with about 300 yards rushing on 27 carries. Running for scores were Mo Schaumkel, Noah Tanpoco and Justin Ray.
Tytan Bradley connected with Bryce Powers on a touchdown pass, and kickers Aaron Bolinas and Landon Leal converted all of their point-after attempts. Bolinas also made a 25-yard field goal.
“We started out lethargic, but the kids got it together to finish strong,” Vintage head coach Kyle Schuh said. “The defense played very well.”
Defensive highlights included an interception by Justin Ray, a fumble recovery by Kody Dikeman, and a scoop and score from Ron Veraflor.