EL CERRITO, Calif. –
There's a long impressive list of El Cerrito
High School football players who have made a name for themselves.
* Cornell Green played 12 seasons in the NFL and was a five-time Pro Bowl defensive back for the Dallas Cowboys. Not bad considering he didn't play a down of college football at Utah State, but instead was a star basketball player.
* All-American UCLA linebacker Jamir Miller was the 10th pick of the 1994 NFL draft by the Arizona Cardinals and an All-Pro more than once in his eight-year career.
* Lamont Thompson was a first-team All-American defensive back at Washington State in 2001 before playing five seasons in the NFL with four teams.
"We have some history, that's for sure," El Cerrito coach Kenny Kahn said.
He should know. He was a 2000 graduate and played for one of the East Bay's best and most long-standing coaches in Frank Milo.
With all that talent and history – seven former Gauchos have played in the NFL – it's quite a mouthful to say the 2012 team might turn out to be the most talented.
They have at least a half dozen Division I prospects and considering there's only 29 on the roster, that's some percentage.
It's no wonder El Cerrito is off to a 5-0 start and No. 15 Bay Area ranking and most important, No. 1 in the MaxPreps computer bowl rankings
for Division III. The Gauchos host Salesian (Richmond)
7 p.m. Friday in the East San Francisco Bay's top game of the night.
Salesian, also 5-0, is riding Northern California's longest win streak at 26 games.
There have been college football recruiters have been on the El Cerrito campus the last two weeks.
"Normally, you might see (recruiters) in November or early December," Kahn said. "But our kids on a lot of lists and I guess they want to get out in front."
El Cerrito's top senior prospect is 5-foot-11, 175-pound cornerback Marcellus Pippins
, who has offers from UCLA, Arizona State and Washington State. Senior running back Marshon Ardoin
(6-1, 205) is also getting Division I interest.
"As good as (Pippins) is at defensive back he does as much for us on offense and special teams," Kahn said.
Most recruiters are eye-balling El Cerrito's junior class which includes linebacker
(6-0, 200), cornerback Adarius Pickett
(6-0, 175) and wide receiver Jalen Harvey
(6-1, 185). Other key players include junior quarterback Keilan Benjamin, his brother Keith Benjamin, safety and running back Austin Harper and linebacker Quinton Anderson.
Calhoun personifies El Cerrito's very physical defense – "If someone hits harder than Derik I'd like to see it," Kahn said – Pickett is every bit the corner that Pippins is and Harvey has been a starter since he was a freshman.
All three are considered among the top 250 juniors in the country with Calhoun leading the way. At his size he's probably a strong safety in college right now but considering his sister Deanna Calhoun is 6-3 and plays basketball at USC, there's probably room for growth.
"Imagining Derik at 6-3 and about 225-230 is sort of scary," Kahn said.
Said Calhoun: "Ever since I was 6-years-old my favorite thing to do on a football field was hit. Our team is truly physically. Practice gets kind of crazy."
So is the proposition of passing against the duo of Pickett and Pippins, who are coached by Thompson, who has come back to his community to mentor and teach.
"Two kids with that much talent getting that kind of coaching can only lead to good things," Kahn said. GAME NOTES:
Salesian's alumni is also quite stout, especially of late with running back Jahvid Best (2006 graduate) and lineman Freddie Tagaloa (2012 graduate, top 100 recruit, now at Cal). The Pride lost a load to graduation from last year's North Coast Section title team but feature a stout defense (7.2 points per game) and outstanding running back Michael Page
. "Coach (Chad) Nightingale does a tremendous job there and this will be a gigantic challenge," Kahn said. "It's without a doubt a great opportunity and honor to play this team. I think what we do well they do well also. It's honestly a lot like playing each other." … This is the third straight week El Cerrito has faced an undefeated team with the same record. Following three blowout wins, El Cerrito beat 2011 state finalist Campolindo (16-14) before a 54-0 blowout of previously 4-0 Valley Christian-Dublin.