Defense and special teams stepped up big late in the game for a couple of local teams on Saturday night, as Del Norte and St. Bernard’s both claimed a North Coast Section championship in football.
Del Norte held on late — barely — against top seed Encinal in the Division-5 decider at Hayward High School, with Chase Blackburn blocking a last gasp 25-yard field goal attempt to seal a 14-13 win.
The championship victory is the first ever for the Del Norte program, which took a 14-7 lead into halftime thanks to TD runs by Blackburn and OJ Calleja.
The Jets pulled within one point on a 67-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter, but missed on the PAT to remain adrift by one point.
And that was enough for the Warriors defense and special teams.
In the Division-6 championship game, meanwhile, the St. Bernard’s defense also stepped up late as the No. 2 Crusaders held on for a 31-28 win over No. 1 seed Kennedy at Benicia High School.
The Crusaders recovered two onside kicks in the third quarter and broke a 28-28 tie thanks to a 37-yard Guillermo Perez-Estrada field goal in the final minute of the period.
And that was the last of the scoring for either team, with Will Omey and Lane Thrap coming up with a couple of huge defensive plays in the final few minutes to deny the top seeds.
Omey stripped the ball for a fumble and Thrap came up with a big interception.
In other NCS action, Ferndale lost to Salesian in the Division-7 championship game.
More to follow on all three games.