El Cerrito Football Gets Revenge On Windsor Team That Ended Its Season A Year Ago, Hanging On For 34-27 Win In NCS Div. III Final •
Just a few moments after El Cerrito finished off a 34-27 win over Windsor to claim the North Coast Section Division III championship, Warren Smith clutched the champion’s plaque as he reflected on what it meant to the Gauchos’ senior class to walk out of Benicia High with a section title.
“It means everything,” Smith said. “Losing to these guys (last year), we just wanted to come back and get our revenge. We did it in the best way (with an) NCS championship.”
One year after its own comeback attempt came up just short in the NCS semifinals, El Cerrito found itself defending a lead of its own late against the Jaguars.
And, just as the Gauchos did a year earlier, Windsor did everything it could to give itself a chance to win. What once stood as a 34-6 lead for El Cerrito early in the third quarter dropped to a one-touchdown margin when Judson Anderson connected with Max McFerren for a 13-yard touchdown pass with 1:56 remaining.
A perfectly executed onside kick landed in the arms of a leaping Hayden Anderson, giving Windsor the ball back with a chance to pull even. On the third play of the possession, the Jaguars went deep, but this time the pass sailed just over the intended receiver, landing instead in the hands of El Cerrito’s Kamani Jackson for a game-sealing interception.
That the game came down to the final seconds was a testament both to El Cerrito’s dominance early and Windsor’s resolve late.
The Gauchos (13-0) built their lead behind yet another standout performance by senior running back Tony McAdoo, and it was his 54-yard touchdown run that put El Cerrito ahead by four touchdowns with 10:34 left in the third quarter. Quarterback Michael Vanhook played a big part as well, throwing for a touchdown and running for another.
“Honestly, I wasn’t even running the right play call (tonight),” said McAdoo, who finished with 268 yards and three touchdowns. “I saw a hole and took it. I saw they were cheating it; they were listening to our plays. So, (I said) just make something work.”
Windsor (10-3) wasn’t about to go away quietly. Judson Anderson cut into the deficit with a 2-yard touchdown run, then opened the fourth quarter with a 31-yard touchdown pass to his younger brother, Hayden.
That Hayden Anderson was even on the field was a triumph in itself, as the Jaguars’ star sophomore playmaker battled stomach issues before the game, limiting his availability throughout the night.
Ultimately though, one of Northern California’s most heralded defenses had enough left in the tank to make the big play when it mattered most.
“We’ve been together all four years. We added some additional key players, but most of us have been here the whole time,” senior Jermaine Hargraves said. “We’ve got the best brotherhood in NorCal. We were able to come together when they were coming back in the fourth quarter and that’s how we were able to get the win.”
El Cerrito head coach Jacob Rincon has long praised his group’s collective spirit, a talking point brought into reality as his group celebrated the school’s second section title.
“These guys are just selfless. They’re humble about the whole process and they just want to see the team win,” Rincon said. “There are no ‘I’s” in this. Everybody is in love with the whole program and what we’re doing and ultimately at the end, they want to see everybody win.”
While the victory ensures the 2022 Gauchos will live forever in school history, there isn’t much time to sit back and celebrate just yet.
That’s because the CIF State Bowl regional playoffs await next week. Win that game, and it’s on to take a swing at a state bowl game for the first time in school history.
“We’ve been preparing to go to state,” Hargraves said. “This is great, we’re going to celebrate and take in the moment, but once it hits Monday, we’re going to get right back into it. Our goal is state, and Windsor was in the way. We’ve got to keep going.”