Chad Nightingale has coached long enough to trust his eyes and not necessarily numbers. Even a score.
The Salesian-Richmond football coach, in his 27th season with the Pride — including 24 as head coach — isn’t buying the notion that his team is the favorite heading into Friday night’s game at Kennedy-Richmond (8-1, 3-1) to decide the Tri-County Athletic League Rock Division title.
Nightingale is certainly not convinced based on Kennedy’s only loss, 27-14 to El Cerrito — a team Salesian (8-1, 4-0) beat 21-14 last week.
“Kennedy dominated a lot of that game and probably should have won,” Nightingale said. “There was a fumble recovered in the end zone that resulted in a 14-point swing. A punt return for a touchdown. Kennedy is really good and probably the best team we’ve played this season.”
Nightingale also has coached long enough to know when he has a good team.
He has led the Pride to five North Coast Section championships, including four in five seasons, starting in 2010. They also won it all in 2005 with Jahvid Best, who the following season rushed for 3,325 yards and 48 touchdowns, both Bay Area records.
Salesian has only 22 players, but the Pride has won eight straight.
“We’re a real team,” Nightingale said. “These guys like one another, play well and support one another. If they make mistakes, they don’t freak out. They trust one another.”
Like when Salesian lost its season opener 24-7 to Bradshaw Christian-Sacramento — which is 7-2 and has outscored foes 323-108.“Sac-Joaquin Section teams get two scrimmages and (an NCS team) only gets one, plus they had more practice time,” Nightingale said. “I had a feeling we’d be OK. Our kids have really stepped up.”
Especially a strong senior core, led by quarterback Ronald Robertson, receiver Kailan Chang, linebacker-running back Kareem Sullivan, linebacker-fullback Justin Gutierrez and two-way lineman Princeton Toki.
Robertson accounted for three touchdowns in the 21-14 win over El Cerrito on Saturday.
“He throws the ball real well and is accurate with good velocity,” Nightingale said. “If you’re going to have a three-year starter, it’s nice to have one in that position.”
Nightingale is just hopeful that Robertson is on the field long enough to make a big impact.
Kennedy loves to control the clock behind an offensive line led by junior co-captains Jaylen McDaniel and Sateki Lavulo (each 6-foot, 265 pounds) and a group of running backs headlined by Trey Baker and Devon Gilbert.
Quarterback Camron Young has rushed for 491 yards and eight scores and his favorite target is 6-4, 235-pound junior tight end Jermaine Terry II, a 4-star recruit who — according to 247Sports — has 17 college offers, including from Alabama, Florida, LSU and Penn State. He’s rated the No. 4 junior tight end in the country.
“Those kind of athletes don’t come around very often,” Nightingale said.
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