Football

How El Cerrito rallied in the fourth quarter and won NCS Division II title: “We were not going to give up on this game”

PLEASANT HILL – For as long as he can remember, El Cerrito coach Jacob Rincon said the Gauchos have had rivalries with North Bay schools. They have developed during the North Coast Section playoffs.

It’s doubtful any were more intense than the current rivalry with Windsor.

The Gauchos and Jaguars met in the North Coast Section playoffs for the third straight season Friday night, and it was another nail-biter that wasn’t decided until the final minutes. 

El Cerrito prevailed 34-31 in the Division II championship game by recovering a fumble at its own 21-yard line with 1:49 left to play, then scoring the winning touchdown 41 seconds later on a fly-sweep from the Windsor 15, with quarterback Michael Vanhook flipping the ball to Jayvon Bolds, who ran it into the end zone.

“They just told me to get the ball and try to get into the end zone,” Bolds said. “I did my job.”

The El Cerrito football team celebrates receiving the championship banner after defeating Windsor to win the North Coast Section Division II championship game at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif. on Nov. 24, 2023. (Douglas Zimmerman for the Bay Area News Group) 

The winning score gave El Cerrito (12-1) back-to-back NCS championships. Last year the Gauchos held off a furious second-half comeback by Windsor to win the D-III title 34-27. Both schools were moved up to D-II this season.

Now El Cerrito will wait until Sunday to find out who it plays in the CIF NorCals next weekend. Win that game, and it’s on to a CIF State championship match. Windsor finishes the season at 10-2-1.

The game-winning fly-sweep wasn’t the first time El Cerrito used the play Friday night. The Gauchos attempted one in the second quarter, but the ball was fumbled and Windsor recovered. It was the only turnover of the game by El Cerrito. Windsor lost the ball five times, three on interceptions.

Sophomore Gary Youngblood was responsible for two of El Cerrito’s takeaways, both on interceptions. His first pick came a little over a minute into the game, and he raced 31 yards to the house to put the Gauchos ahead 6-0.

He got his second interception as the clock was winding down in the first half, but there was enough time for Vanhook to score on a 9-yard run to give El Cerrito a 21-17 lead at intermission. Youngblood also caught a 68-yard TD pass from Vanhook in the first half.

The game see-sawed back-and-forth. After Youngblood’s first pick made it 6-0, Windsor scored the next 17 points. But El Cerrito scored twice in the final 5:05 of the second quarter to take the four-point lead at halftime.

Gary Youngblood (20) of El Cerrito breaks the tackle attempt of Gunnar Erickson (6) of Windsor for a touchdown in the first half during the North Coast Section Division II championship game at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif. on Nov. 24, 2023. (Douglas Zimmerman for the Bay Area News Group)Gary Youngblood (20) of El Cerrito breaks the tackle attempt of Gunnar Erickson (6) of Windsor for a touchdown in the first half during the North Coast Section Division II championship game at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif. on Nov. 24, 2023. (Douglas Zimmerman for the Bay Area News Group) 

Windsor fought back with touchdowns on its first two possessions of the third quarter to go in front 31-21, but El Cerrito trimmed the score to 31-28 on a 1-yard run by Vanhook with 8:05 to go, then the Gauchos got the break they needed. 

A Jaguars ball-carrier fumbled after a 14-yard run to the Gauchos’ 21, and the El Cerrito defense jumped on the ball. 

After an El Cerrito penalty, Vanhook threw a 17-yard pass to Zion Shelton. An incomplete pass and another Gauchos penalty followed, then Washington State commit Kamani Jackson took off on a 26-yard run. A Windsor penalty after the run added 15 more yards, putting El Cerrito deep in Jaguars’ territory. 

Micah Avery got the ball to the 15 with an 8-yard run, then Vanhook and Bolds hooked up for the final 15 yards. Avery had 18 rushes for 144 yards.

“We were not going to give up on this game,” Avery said of the Gauchos’ 10-point deficit entering the fourth quarter. “The defense made a big stop, then the offense got the ball into the end zone.”

Rincon said his team seemed a little discouraged at one point in the fourth quarter, so he called a time out and huddled with his players. “I told them to keep having faith, the game ain’t over.”

On the next play, El Cerrito got its fourth turnover of the night and began its game-winning drive.

Michael Vanhook (5) of El Cerrito throws a pass against Windsor during the North Coast Section Division II championship game at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif. on Nov. 24, 2023. (Douglas Zimmerman for the Bay Area News Group)Michael Vanhook (5) of El Cerrito throws a pass against Windsor during the North Coast Section Division II championship game at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif. on Nov. 24, 2023. (Douglas Zimmerman for the Bay Area News Group) 
Tyree Johnson (23) of El Cerrito celebrates his team's win over Windsor after the North Coast Section Division II championship game at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif. on Nov. 24, 2023. (Douglas Zimmerman for the Bay Area News Group)Tyree Johnson (23) of El Cerrito celebrates his team’s win over Windsor after the North Coast Section Division II championship game at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif. on Nov. 24, 2023. (Douglas Zimmerman for the Bay Area News Group) 
The El Cerrito football team celebrates receiving the championship plaque after defeating Windsor to win the North Coast Section Division II championship game at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif. on Nov. 24, 2023. (Douglas Zimmerman for the Bay Area News Group)The El Cerrito football team celebrates receiving the championship plaque after defeating Windsor to win the North Coast Section Division II championship game at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif. on Nov. 24, 2023. (Douglas Zimmerman for the Bay Area News Group) 
Ajhuan Parker (11) of El Cerrito celebrates defeating Windsor after the North Coast Section Division II championship game at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif. on Nov. 24, 2023. (Douglas Zimmerman for the Bay Area News Group)Ajhuan Parker (11) of El Cerrito celebrates defeating Windsor after the North Coast Section Division II championship game at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif. on Nov. 24, 2023. (Douglas Zimmerman for the Bay Area News Group) 
Guardian Harper (10) of El Cerrito celebrates with teammate Rashad Fontenot (56) after an interception against Windsor late in the fourth quarter during the North Coast Section Division II championship game at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif. on Nov. 24, 2023. (Douglas Zimmerman for the Bay Area News Group)Guardian Harper (10) of El Cerrito celebrates with teammate Rashad Fontenot (56) after an interception against Windsor late in the fourth quarter during the North Coast Section Division II championship game at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif. on Nov. 24, 2023. (Douglas Zimmerman for the Bay Area News Group) 
The El Cerrito football team celebrates receiving the championship pennant after defeating Windsor to win the North Coast Section Division II championship game at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif. on Nov. 24, 2023. (Douglas Zimmerman for the Bay Area News Group)The El Cerrito football team celebrates receiving the championship pennant after defeating Windsor to win the North Coast Section Division II championship game at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif. on Nov. 24, 2023. (Douglas Zimmerman for the Bay Area News Group) 
Donavyn Lewis (1) of El Cerrito recovers a fumble by Windsor late in the fourth quarter during the North Coast Section Division II championship game at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif. on Nov. 24, 2023. (Douglas Zimmerman for the Bay Area News Group)Donavyn Lewis (1) of El Cerrito recovers a fumble by Windsor late in the fourth quarter during the North Coast Section Division II championship game at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif. on Nov. 24, 2023. (Douglas Zimmerman for the Bay Area News Group) 
Michael Vanhook (5) of El Cerrito grabs an errant snapback while playing against Windsor during the North Coast Section Division II championship game at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif. on Nov. 24, 2023. (Douglas Zimmerman for the Bay Area News Group)Michael Vanhook (5) of El Cerrito grabs an errant snapback while playing against Windsor during the North Coast Section Division II championship game at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif. on Nov. 24, 2023. (Douglas Zimmerman for the Bay Area News Group) 
Micah Avery (3) of El Cerrito tries to outrun the tackle attempt of Ricky Campos (27) of Windsor during the North Coast Section Division II championship game at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif. on Nov. 24, 2023. (Douglas Zimmerman for the Bay Area News Group)Micah Avery (3) of El Cerrito tries to outrun the tackle attempt of Ricky Campos (27) of Windsor during the North Coast Section Division II championship game at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif. on Nov. 24, 2023. (Douglas Zimmerman for the Bay Area News Group) 
Max McFerren (4) of Windsor in congratulated by teammate Gunnar Erickson (6) of Windsor after scoring a touchdown in the third quarter against El Cerrito during the North Coast Section Division II championship game at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif. on Nov. 24, 2023. (Douglas Zimmerman for the Bay Area News Group)Max McFerren (4) of Windsor in congratulated by teammate Gunnar Erickson (6) of Windsor after scoring a touchdown in the third quarter against El Cerrito during the North Coast Section Division II championship game at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif. on Nov. 24, 2023. (Douglas Zimmerman for the Bay Area News Group) 
Gunnar Erickson (6) of Windsor attempts to break through the tackle of Elvis Mafuahingano (34) of El Cerrito during the North Coast Section Division II championship game at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif. on Nov. 24, 2023. (Douglas Zimmerman for the Bay Area News Group)Gunnar Erickson (6) of Windsor attempts to break through the tackle of Elvis Mafuahingano (34) of El Cerrito during the North Coast Section Division II championship game at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif. on Nov. 24, 2023. (Douglas Zimmerman for the Bay Area News Group) 

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