EL SOBRANTE — After the game Friday night, the Richmond police made the call. The cops saw the tension, felt the ugly vibe and decided it was time to play it safe. A brawl felt entirely too possible.
Analy and El Cerrito, the cops told the players and coaches of the respective teams, don't shake hands. Just go. Leave the field.
"At that point," said Analy principal Chris Heller, "that was probably the best decision."
Heller was at midfield. So were two Richmond policemen. The three men were in the middle of raised voices, pointed fingers, words with very suggestive references. Teams were there as teams are supposed to do after a game, to shake hands, to congratulate each other, to remind each other, if nothing else, that this was a game that was just played, not an excuse for a fight. However, this was as far from a kumbaya moment as you could get.
The tension wasn't because of one team contesting the skill level of the other, or that the game was somehow decided in the last second by a disputed play. No, Analy was beaten and clearly beaten by a better team. El Cerrito won the NCS Division 3 semifinal, 40-20.
"They were faster in person and more athletic than even what we saw on tape," said Analy coach Dan Bourdon.
Are they good enough to reach the state championship game in Carson?
Measuring his words very carefully, Bourdon replied, "They are athletic enough."
Yes, Bourdon would never dispute that. But any game, especially at the high school level, is about more than just winning.
It's winning with class.
"We didn't see a lot of that tonight," Bourdon said, referring to El Cerrito.
And it was more than El Cerrito's 17 penalties for 142 yards. That was just 17 plays.
"Write that they are doing it (talking smack) the whole game," one Analy player told me on the sideline during the fourth quarter.
Yes, sure, El Cerrito has every reason to be confident, cocky, even arrogant. The Gauchos' skill was obvious and the retelling of one play in the third quarter as good an example of that as any.
With a second-and-five at the Analy 5-yard line, El Cerrito quarterback Keilan Benjamin took the center snap out of the shotgun and bobbled it. Actually, he did more than bobble. He trapped it against his chest. The ball moved in and out of his control. When it became clear to him that the pass play called in the huddle would not be thrown, Benjamin did as all quarterbacks do with a busted play. He ran for dear life.
Except, with Analy defenders all around, Benjamin sprinted past all of them. He went to the right, along the Analy sideline, and ran untouched into the end zone. On a busted play. When most times the quarterback just wants to avoid a sack. When he just wants to reach the original line of scrimmage. Benjamin busted it. Remember, he was untouched.That's the kind of speed El Cerrito had.
Here's also something else El Cerrito had.
A punch. In the fourth quarter. Near the Analy sideline. I didn't get the number of the Analy player or the El Cerrito player. But the El Cerrito player swung, clipped the side of the helmet of the Analy player. Tweet! Yellow penalty flag. Unsportsmanlike conduct.