Encinal High football coach Joe Tenorio knows all too well about taking teams lightly in the North Coast Section playoffs.
As a No. 3 seed in last year’s 2A field, he watched his Jets fall to No. 7 Campolindo 28-8 in the East Bay semifinals.
“We took Campo for granted,” Tenorio said.
This year, the Jets are trying to prove their perfect regular-season record (10-0) was no fluke as they host No. 9 Kennedy-Fremont in the Division III quarterfinals tonight at 7.
“Kennedy is here and is for real,” Tenorio said. “They’re better than six or seven teams we’ve played this year.”
Tenorio has a point. The top-seeded Jets, who had a first-round bye because only 15 teams showed up for the NCS seeding and at-large meeting in the 16-team field, plays in what is considered a not-so-strong Bay Shore Athletic League.
The league’s second-place team, Piedmont, got bounced in the first round of the Division III playoffs with a 35-13 loss to Fortuna. The third-place team, St. Patrick-St. Vincent, was eliminated in the first round of the Division IV playoffs by Justin-Siena 34-19.
The Jets blew through the BSAL, led by an offense that averaged 343.8 yards and 42.6 points per game. They also boasted the best defense, yielding 150.3 yards and 8.8 points per game.
Offensively, they’re balanced. Quarterback Jonathan Brown has thrown for 960 yards with 19 touchdowns and only four interceptions. His top target has been Xavier Milton, who has 26 catches for 594 yards and 12 TDs.
On the ground, Dominique Sashington rumbled his way for 659 yards and eight touchdowns. He averaged 7.9 yards per carry.
“Thing of it is, they got a potent offense,” Kennedy coach Pete Michaletos. “The key is to keep the ball away from them. Ball control will be an important part of the game.”
And that starts with Kennedy’s bread and butter — the ground game.
The Titans (6-5) boast two of the Mission Valley Athletic League’s top running backs in Jerrell Walker (1,104 yards) and Dane Dismuke (1,070).
And the player who gets overlooked most of the time is quarterback Trevor Damewood. He’s mobile and can pass at times, but it’s his leadership that is key.
“The guy keeps it all together,” Michaletos said. “He does a great job with that. He’s a field general, a smart football person. A lot of times he gets into the discussion about play calling. He’s got that leadership quality you’ve got to have.”
A week ago, the Titans claimed their first NCS win in school history with a 34-9 victory over No. 8 El Cerrito. The Titans blew the game open with a 20-point fourth quarter — two touchdowns by Dismuke and one by Damewood.
“Emotions are high,” Michaletos said. “Everyone is excited. This is something that hasn’t happened before. The community deserves it. Sometimes Kennedy gets pushed into a corner.”