EL SOBRANTE -- Two electric plays in the early stages of the third quarter ignited a stagnant offense and the El Cerrito High football team turned an otherwise close game into a 43-7 TCAL-Rock Division rout of St. Mary's on Saturday at De Anza High.
Senior quarterback Keilan Benjamin raced 66 yards for a touchdown at the 8:23 mark of the third quarter and cornerback Jalen Harvey sprinted 23 yards with an interception return for another touchdown 18 seconds later as El Cerrito clinched a share of the TCAL-Rock Division title. The Gauchos can take the title outright -- and the division's automatic berth into the North Coast Section playoffs -- with a victory over St. Patrick-St. Vincent next week, or if second place Valley Christian loses to Salesian.
The Panthers, who only trailed 14-7 at the half, fell to 5-4 overall and 2-3 in the division.
El Cerrito (7-2, 5-0) set the tempo early as Harvey rambled 27 yards for the game's first score and Keilan Benjamin connected with UCLA-bound wideout Adarius Pickett as the Gauchos went up 14-0.
St. Mary's got on the board when quarterback Ian Bonde hit Marquis Mahone-Chambers on a 14-yard scoring play.
The Panthers just couldn't get untracked against El Cerrito's stingy defense, as Harvey and Pickett both had interceptions for touchdowns. The Gauchos had slippery fingers throughout the game, committing six turnovers, all of them lost fumbles.
Bonde was continually harassed by linebacker D.J. Calhoun. The Gauchos held St. Mary's to minus 33 yards rushing.
El Cerrito 43, St. Mary's 7
St. Mary's 0 7 0 0-- 7
El Cerrito 14 0 14 15-- 43
EC -- Harvey 27 run (kick failed)
EC -- Pickett 47 pass from Keilan Benjamin (Pippins from Keilan Benjamin)
SM -- Mahone-Chambers 14 pass from Bonde (Richards kick)
EC -- Keilan Benjamin 66 run (kick failed)
EC -- Harvey 23 interception return (pass failed)
EC -- Safety, ball snapped out of end zone
EC -- Pickett 2 run (Gavaria kick)
EC -- Pickett 38 interception return (Keith Benjamin from Keilan Benjamin)
Rushing: SM — Logwood 15-17, Grace 7-12, Pierce 1-(-4), Bonde 8-(-58). Totals 23-(-33). EC — Pickett 11-72, Keilan Benjamin 9-35, Harvey 1-27, Keith Benjamin 1-12, Houston 2-9.Totals 22-155. Passing: SM — Bonde 11-26-107-2. EC — Keilan Benjamin 11-14-176-0, Pickett 1-1-26-0. Totals 12-15-202-0. Receiving: SM — Schrider 3-36, Mahone-Chambers 3-25, Logwood 1-28, Godfrey 2-19, Pierce 2-2. Totals 11-107. EC — Harvey 6-80, Keith Benjamin 4-58, Pickett 1-47, Dickson 1-17. Totals 12-202. Fumbles/lost: St. Mary's 1/0; El Cerrito 6/6. Records: St. Mary's 5-4, 2-3 TCAL-Rock); El Cerrito 7-2, 5-0.