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PADECKY: Police step in after bad blood lingers on the field

By BOB PADECKY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

EL SOBRANTE — After the game Friday night, the Richmond police made the call. The cops saw the tension, felt the ugly vibe and decided it was time to play it safe. A brawl felt entirely too possible.

Analy and El Cerrito, the cops told the players and coaches of the respective teams, don’t shake hands. Just go. Leave the field.

“At that point,” said Analy principal Chris Heller, “that was probably the best decision.”

Heller was at midfield. So were two Richmond policemen. The three men were in the middle of raised voices, pointed fingers, words with very suggestive references. Teams were there as teams are supposed to do after a game, to shake hands, to congratulate each other, to remind each other, if nothing else, that this was a game that was just played, not an excuse for a fight.

However, this was as far from a kumbaya moment as you could get.

The tension wasn’t because of one team contesting the skill level of the other, or that the game was somehow decided in the last second by a disputed play. No, Analy was beaten and clearly beaten by a better team. El Cerrito won the NCS Division 3 semifinal, 40-20.

“They were faster in person and more athletic than even what we saw on tape,” said Analy coach Dan Bourdon.

Are they good enough to reach the state championship game in Carson?

Measuring his words very carefully, Bourdon replied, “They are athletic enough.”

Yes, Bourdon would never dispute that. But any game, especially at the high school level, is about more than just winning.
It’s winning with class.

“We didn’t see a lot of that tonight,” Bourdon said, referring to El Cerrito.

And it was more than El Cerrito’s 17 penalties for 142 yards. That was just 17 plays.

“Write that they are doing it (talking smack) the whole game,” one Analy player told me on the sideline during the fourth quarter.

Yes, sure, El Cerrito has every reason to be confident, cocky, even arrogant. The Gauchos’ skill was obvious and the retelling of one play in the third quarter as good an example of that as any.

With a second-and-five at the Analy 5-yard line, El Cerrito quarterback Keilan Benjamin took the center snap out of the shotgun and bobbled it. Actually, he did more than bobble. He trapped it against his chest. The ball moved in and out of his control. When it became clear to him that the pass play called in the huddle would not be thrown, Benjamin did as all quarterbacks do with a busted play. He ran for dear life.

Except, with Analy defenders all around, Benjamin sprinted past all of them. He went to the right, along the Analy sideline, and ran untouched into the end zone. On a busted play. When most times the quarterback just wants to avoid a sack. When he just wants to reach the original line of scrimmage. Benjamin busted it. Remember, he was untouched.That’s the kind of speed El Cerrito had.

Here’s also something else El Cerrito had.

A punch. In the fourth quarter. Near the Analy sideline. I didn’t get the number of the Analy player or the El Cerrito player. But the El Cerrito player swung, clipped the side of the helmet of the Analy player. Tweet! Yellow penalty flag. Unsportsmanlike conduct.

So the obvious presented itself.

I wonder how good El Cerrito — the No. 1 seed in NCS Division 3 — could be if it was disciplined? If it kept its mouth shut? If it didn’t throw punches? If it didn’t act like a punk? Imagine, with all that talent, if El Cerrito could play under control. Wow. It would be a devastating force.

Usually, when a team is flagged 17 times for 142 yards, it doesn’t win 40-20. It loses 40-20, and the Oakland Raiders come to mind as an all-too-often example of that.

“But when you have that kind of athleticism,” Bourdon said, “you can overcome a lot. I felt when we played on offense, we were playing against 13 defenders.”

In the interest of fairness, one of the game officials did approach an adult standing on the Analy sideline and said, “You’re not helping the situation.”

If allowed, Bourdon would have shaken the hands of El Cerrito. Instead, he focused his postgame energy on his kids. Analy went an unprecedented 12-1. The Tigers had a dream season. He told the kids not to hang their heads. He told them he was proud of them, how they kept their cool, how they never quit. He told them all the right things a good coach tells a good team — to look at the whole season, not just the last game.

One day, not now, Analy will. It needs to make no apologies to the school, to the parents, to the coaches and, especially, to themselves. The Tigers were beaten by a better team. It happens. There’s no shame in that. And they’ll see it and feel it one day, not now. The score had something to do with it but not all of it.

“It ended ugly,” Bourdon said.

Was he referring to El Cerrito’s athletic dominance or the near brawl?

“The situation in general,” Bourdon said delicately.

Yes, the moment demanded delicacy. It demanded cool heads, a steady demeanor. It demanded discretion, as it were, for everyone to keep a lid on it. It seemed, eventually, that everyone had. Until about 15 minutes after the game.

That’s when the Richmond police informed the Analy folks — coaches, players, parents, fans — to leave the field at De Anza High School. Get in your cars, buses, whatever, and vacate. The coaches and players didn’t have to be told twice. When the Analy team bus arrived before the game, Bourdon said, they were met with hecklers.

“The minute we got off the bus,” he said.

It didn’t seem like an outdated and old-fashioned thought, this idea of winning with class. But apparently not everyone got the memo.

You can reach Staff Columnist Bob Padecky at 521-5223 or bob.padecky@pressdemocrat.com.