When an opposing quarterback looks into the Santa Rosa Junior College football team’s secondary this season he might see double. Identical twins Keith and Keilan Benjamin are starting at the cornerback positions for the Bear Cubs.
“They are our team’s version of Thing 1 and Thing 2,” said quarterback Mitch Hood. “If they didn’t have different tattoos, I probably couldn’t tell the difference. Getting to practice against them makes me better every day. I believe they are two of the best DBs in the country.”
The Benjamin twins, graduates of El Cerrito High School, are both coming off All-Big Six Conference first team defense honors and, fittingly, posted almost identical numbers in 2015. Each had 47 tackles and three interceptions. Keilan slightly edged Keith in pass breakups, while also forcing one more fumble. There is always competition between the Benjamin twins.
“We’re each other’s biggest critic. He’s always watching me. Even if I get an interception, he’s in my face with what I did wrong,” said Keith. “We love to compete against each other.”
Being twins on the same team already has its advantage, but being identical twins playing the same position in the same unit could be what separates the Benjamin brothers from every other defensive back tandem in the country.
“I think the twin telepathy thing is real,” said Keith. “We have an unspoken bond where I know where he’s going to be on the field at all times. Our communication is just on another level, which is really important on the football field.”
Along with the Benjamin twins, the Bear Cubs have returned a large number of sophomores, including safety Justin Tauaefa and linebacker Presley Piliati, who were contributors to the 2015 team that allowed an average of only 20 points a game on its way to a 7-4 record and a 38-18 win against Modesto in the North State Bowl. It was Piliati who scooped up a fumble in Saturday’s opening game and returned it 22 yards for the game-clinching touchdown in the Bear Cubs’ 17-7 win against Butte.
“We really have some ballers on defense. I love watching them play. They get me fired up to do my job,” said Hood.
The offense will boast three all-conference first teamers and Hood, who was voted MVP of the bowl game.
“We like to call him Brady, like Tom Brady, because he rocks that number 12,” said Keith. “He’s in total command of the offense at all times. He knows what’s going to happen before it happens.”
Hood’s favorite target, sophomore wideout Kerr Johnson Jr. (Analy High), has returned after leading the Bear Cubs in receiving yards and touchdowns in 2015.
“He’s extremely smart. It’s cool to see his mind work. We’ve formed a lot of chemistry together,” said Hood. “I feel like I’ve known him my entire life. We’re always on the same page. We’ve improved a lot together.”
The Benjamin twins also approve of Johnson’s improvement.
“I expect a breakout year from Kerr. He has to go against us every day so I know that has to make him better,” said Keith.
The Bear Cubs also have four starting offensive linemen returning, including all-conference guard Victor Maldonado.