EL CERRITO -- With the way the North Coast Section Division III football bracket played out, El Cerrito High coach Kenny Kahn has had no trouble keeping his team focused.
The postseason has served as a bit of a revenge tour for the Gauchos, with another stop scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday at Burrell Field in San Leandro.
After losing last year's Division III final to Marin Catholic-Kentfield on a last-minute field goal, El Cerrito (11-2) gets another shot at the Wildcats (12-0) in this year's championship game.
"It's real motivation," senior Adarius Pickett said of the rematch.
The Gauchos didn't lack for focus last week either when facing Campolindo in the semifinals. The game was a rematch of the Gauchos' 42-27 loss to the Cougars from late September -- a painful result for El Cerrito but one that helped shape the rest of its season.
"After that we said we're not going to allow ourselves to get in our own way anymore," Kahn said. "I think that's where as a program everyone said, 'I'm all in,' and you saw a different level of commitment from coaches and players alike."
Quarterback Keilan Benjamin also remembered the Cougars' crowd chanting "overrated" as star-studded El Cerrito was handed its second nonleague loss in three weeks.
"That hurt the most, that's our fuel to win state, honestly," Benjamin said. "That didn't sit well with me. It hurt to get called overrated."
Since then, the Gauchos have won nine straight by an average of 36 points. They've gotten healthy and made some personnel changes.
Pickett, who is bound for UCLA as a cornerback, shifted from slot receiver to running back and has been a sparkplug out of the backfield while also making significant contributions on defense and special teams.
Pickett, Benjamin and his twin brother, Keith, are part of a core of terrific seniors determined to leave their mark.
The close group of friends also includes linebacker D.J. Calhoun and receiver/defensive back Jalen Harvey, both of whom committed to Arizona State.
Calhoun and Pickett plan to graduate early and enroll in college this spring, so revenge isn't their only motivation against Marin Catholic, which features its own set of Division I prospects in quarterback Morgan Mahalak (Oregon) and utility man Drew Celis (Nevada).
"We only have a month left with each other, and we cherish the moment," Benjamin said. "No one has ever won an NCS title at our school (in football) period, in history. So we guarantee we're going to try to be the first ones to get it done."
FRIDAY: No. 3 El Cerrito (11-2) vs. No. 1 Marin Catholic-Kentfield (12-0) at Burrell Field, San Leandro, 7 p.m.
LIVE BLOG: Visit contracostatimes.com/high-school-sports or insidebayarea.com/high-school-sports for a live blog off Friday's NCS Division III championship game.