The visiting El Cerrito High football team (11-2) used big play after big play after big play to end Campolindo's season with a 49-34 victory on Nov. 29.
With the win, El Cerrito advances to the North Coast Section Division III championship game on Dec. 6 at Burrell Field in San Leandro against No. 1 seed Marin Catholic (12-0).
El Cerrito (11-2) is the No. 3 seed. Campolindo (11-1), the No. 2 seed, had defeated El Cerrito 42-27 on Sept. 20.
"We've got a lot of athletes," Gauchos quarterback Keilan Benjamin said. "If they try to stack the box and they split the hole, it's pretty much grass for us."
Or, in the case of the Cougars home field, artificial turf. Benjamin completed 10 of 18 passes for 154 yards and three touchdowns. But the real star was Jalen Harvey, who caught touchdown passes of 50 and 18 yards and returned a punt 73 yards for a touchdown.
More impressive was the performance of the El Cerrito defense. Campolindo came into the game averaging 35 points per game. Although the Cougars almost hit that number on Nov. 29, that was misleading. The Cougars scored a late touchdown on Friday, recovered an onside kick, then scored another touchdown.
Prior to those final two drives, Campolindo had just eight first downs in the game and just two in the second half. The Gauchos sacked quarterback Andrew Zolintakis five times and pressured him countless others. Zolintakis hung in there, completing his final seven passes of the game to finish 15 of 21 for 290 yards and four touchdowns.
"They definitely put some pressure on me," Zolintakis said. "More than last game so it made it a little more difficult."
St. Mary's 35, San Marin 29: The Panthers built a 22-point lead then held off host and No. 1 seed San Marin-Novato for a thrilling 35-29 win Nov. 30 in the NCS Division IV semifinals.
Only when Jeff Walchli's onside kick attempt bounced out of bounds with 56 seconds left could St. Mary's (9-4) breathe a collective sigh of relief --- and begin celebrating the program's first berth in a NCS final since the Panthers lost to Foothill in the 2A East Bay championship game in 1999.
St. Mary's, the No. 5 seed, will face No. 2 Fortuna (10-2) in the championship on Dec. 7 at Humboldt State University. The kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.
"It feels great, it feels great, there's no other feeling like this in the world," Panthers receiver/defensive back Liam Godfrey said. "I couldn't have asked for more."
Godfrey scored three touchdowns, including a 97-yard touchdown pass from Ian Bonde. On that play, defensive back Joseph Widny appeared to throw up his hands near midfield after the catch and that gave the speedy Godfrey enough of a lead to score easily.
Godfrey also scored from 36 yards out on an end around play on fourth down in the second quarter when he cleared the line and found nobody back deep. His first score came on a 10-yard pass from Bonde early in the first quarter. Godfrey finished with six catches for 164 yards plus 46 yards rushing on four carries.
San Marin (9-3) never gave up and a failed attempt on a fourth-and-goal play actually set up the Mustangs' comeback. San Marin's Kyle Chernoff took a swing pass from Manny Wilkins on the play and was tackled on the 3 by Jovon Kitchen. However, Bonde fumbled the snap on first down and was tackled in the end zone by Conner Kristofors for a safety.
Following the free kick, the Mustangs went 63 yards in four plays with Jason Draper running it in from the 7. Suddenly, the score was 28-15. San Marin pulled to 28-22 midway through the fourth quarter on a 14-yard keeper by Wilkins.
With two minutes, three seconds left in the game, Lorenzo Logwood finally broke free for a 55-yard touchdown to seemingly put the game on ice. The Mustangs had done a tremendous job of corralling Logwood, allowing him just 67 yards on 19 carries up to that point.
But San Marin wasn't done, marching 93 yards in five plays and scoring on another Wilkins keeper. The Mustangs finished with 547 yards of offense. St. Mary's had 371 yards on offense.
CIF state championships: St. Mary's Spencer Moore made it 4 for 4 on Nov. 30 at the California Interscholastic Federation state championships at Woodward Park in Fresno.
Moore finished in the top 10 in the CIF Division IV state girls championship race for the fourth year in a row. She placed 10th on the 3.1 mile course with a time of 18 minutes, 39 seconds.
"I ended the season off well, but not as well as I would have liked," said Moore, who was fifth at the two-mile mark with a time of 11:51. She passed the one-mile mark in 5:30. Moore was ninth as a junior and sophomore, and seventh as a freshman at the state championships.
Moore led the Panthers' girls team to a 10th-place team finish (261 points). Teammate Chloe Jenkins also placed in the top 50 of the 207-runner race, as she was 48th in 19:49.
The St. Mary's boys team finished 19th in the CIF Division IV boys state championship race with a score of 426. Its top finisher was Jovani Barajas (61st, 16:56).
-- Phil Jensen