FOOTBALL: Christopher rolls in CCS opening round, 55-0

Marcus Harrell scores an 81-yard touchdown against Del Mar on

The Christopher High football team played up to its billing as the No. 1-seed in a 55-0 drubbing of No. 8 Del Mar in the opening round of the Central Coast Section Division III playoffs Friday night in Gilroy.

“I was very happy with the way the kids played,” CHS head coach Tim Pierleoni said. “I liked their intensity.”

The rain may have stayed away for the most part, but the Cougars poured on the points in a hurry.

Quarterback Brandon Pickens’ first two passes of the evening fell incomplete, however the senior signal caller went on to complete 15 of his next 17 passes for 238 yards and six touchdowns, including five in the first half as CHS mounted a 34-0 lead at the break.

“Our passing game really carried us tonight,” Pierleoni said. “Pickens, again, played phenomenal tonight. He does such a good job operating the offense. He makes really good decisions. He impresses me more and more each week.”

Marcus Harrell was the beneficiary of 4-yard and 81-yard touchdown passes, and Bryant Cid hauled in scoring plays of 10 and 31 yards. Takoda Bowers and Nic Slater had the other touchdown catches

“The coaches prepared us all week, we came out executed what we needed to do and played tough,” Harrell said.

Christopher’s defense, which has allowed opponents on average 174 yards from scrimmage, held Del Mar, the Blossom Valley Athletic League West Valley Division champions, to 172 yards and forced six turnovers for the second straight week. Marcus Harrell accounted for half of the takeaways, picking off Dons’ quarterback Francisco Aranda (7-of-30, 57 yards) three times, including a 99-yard, pick-6 early in the third quarter that pushed CHS ahead 48-0.

“I followed my blockers. I owe it all to them,” Harrell said. “The defense was on point tonight.”

On the Dons’ next set of downs, a bad snap led to a 35-yard scoop and score by CHS freshman linebacker Jacob Moen, giving the Cougars their 55-0 cushion with 4:44 to play in the third. Moen also had a first-half interception. Slater had an interception as well, which came on the Dons’ first drive of the game.

“He’s the real deal,” Pierleoni said of his 6-foot-2, 215-pound freshman.

The Cougars sent in their second team offense and defense in the fourth quarter, and the defense held the Dons’ (7-4) out of the end zone on three drives in the final quarter to preserve the shut out.

“I liked the way our (second team and third team) went in and played hard. I can see the improvement in them,” Pierleoni said. “The senior leadership is rubbing off on them. I’m proud of all the kids. It was fun to watch.”

CHS, which shared the Monterey Bay League title with Monterey and Monte Vista Christian, jumped ahead 21-0 within the first six minutes of the contest, exchanging the takeaways for points. After the Pickens-to-Bowers connection made it 7-0, a slick improvisation by Pickens on CHS’s next series turned a mess of a broken play into a 32-yard touchdown to Slater. Pickens scrambled around for about 10 seconds before dumping a short pass to Slater. Nader Elaskary picked up a big block that sprung Slater to pay dirt.

“Our offensive line had to step it up because this was one of the tougher defensive lines that we have played,” senior Steven White said. “On the running side of the ball we didn’t get the yards that we normally do, but on the passing side we kept Pickens safe the whole night.”

A 4-yard strike to Harrell made it 21-0 with 5:50 still left in the first. Pickens finished the first half with the two touchdown throws to Cid.

The Cougars (10-1) will play No. 5 Sacred Heart Cathedral (6-5) of the West Catholic Athletic League in the semifinals next week. The Fighting Irish defeated Christopher’s MBL counterparts No. 4 Monterey 37-14 on Friday.

The semifinals are scheduled for Nov. 25 at 7 p.m. at Gilroy High School.

“We’ve achieved one of our goals of being able to practice on Thanksgiving morning,” Pierleoni said.

NOTES: Total yards: CHS 285, Del Mar 172… Turnovers: Del Mar 6, CHS 1… Dons’ running back Dillon Howery finished with a game high 104 yards rushing on 16 carries… Harrell: five catches, 123 yards, 2TD, Cid: four catches, 60 yards, 2TD.

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