Thanks in large part to strong play on defense, the third-seeded Salesian High football team survived a gritty, physical contest against Kennedy-Richmond on Saturday and earned a 16-8 victory in the first round of the North Coast Section Division IV playoffs.
"We came into today expecting a physical game," Salesian coach Chad Nightingale said. "They're very big and very athletic, and we give them their due credit."
The game played as a stark contrast to their Sept. 14 matchup when Salesian (9-2) won 42-0. The biggest difference, according to Nightingale, was Kennedy's ability to neutralize the run game.
Visiting Kennedy's speed and athleticism, led by linebacker Takkarist McKinley, helped bottle up Salesian's outside run.
The 14th-seeded Eagles (5-6) even took an 8-7 halftime lead, but a flat start to the second half proved to be their undoing.
Kennedy allowed a safety on its first possession of the second half, and Salesian's defense prevented the Eagles from gaining any type of rhythm offensively from that point forward.
"I think it was uncharted territory for us," Eagles coach Mack Carminer said of his team's halftime lead. "That lull to start the half really hurt us."
Pride quarterback Zack Boyett had 78 yards passing and two touchdowns, including a big fourth-quarter throw on third-and-goal from the 15 to wide receiver Aaron Hayes, which gave Salesian a 16-8 lead.
"A lot of credit has to go to our defense, who aside from giving up one score, played great all game long," Nightingale said. "Offensively, we need to get better by next week."
Salesian 16, Kennedy-Richmond 8
Kennedy 0 8 0 0-- 8
Salesian 0 7 2 7-- 16
S -- Morgan 9 from Boyett (Stern kick)
K -- Qualls 1 run (Ortez run)
S -- Safety, fumble out of end zone
S -- Hayes 15 from Boyett (Stern kick)
Rushing: K -- Timoteo 13-53, Qualls 9-23, Ortez 3-14, Espinoza 2-11, Armstrong 1-1, Smith 1-(-2), McKinley 1-(-6). Totals 30-94. S -- Hernandez 16-70, Page 8-49, Thomas 7-34, Boyett 3-29, Cole 1-7. Totals 35-189. Passing: K -- Espinoza 7-19-0 90. S -- Boyett 7-22-2 78. Receiving: K -- McKinley 2-47, Smith 2-25, Walker 2-11, Jamerson 1-7. S -- Morgan 4-41, Hayes 2-27, Page 1-10. Fumbles/lost: Kennedy 2/1, Salesian 1/0. Records: Kennedy 5-6, Salesian 9-2.