With a one school, 24-year head coaching resume that includes over 200 wins and eight section titles in the last 12 seasons, Cathedral Catholic’s Sean Doyle is not one to overstate the results of a single contest, particularly the opener of a challenging 10-game regular season campaign.
But that doesn’t mean the veteran mentor was not pleased with what he saw Friday night, Aug. 23, as his defending CIF Open Division champion and No. 1-ranked Dons throttled visiting La Costa Canyon, 42-9.
“It was about as good as we could have hoped for,” said Doyle, whose club lost to the Mavericks, 19-7, in its 2018 debut. “We challenged them to come out tonight and play a whole game.
“At halftime (up 28-3) we talked about good teams learning to not let up in the second half and that’s what we did it—I’m very pleased.”
After stopping LCC’s opening drive, Cathedral wasted little time asserting itself offensively. Shifting seamlessly between their ground and air attacks, the Dons went 85 yards and with 3:24 left in the first quarter, senior quarterback D.J. Ralph covered the final yard on a keeper for the first score of the night. Less than two minutes later, LCC replied with a 37-yd. Joe Bowman field goal but that would be all the scoring the Mavs would do until the game’s final minute.
In the interim, Doyle unleashed an offense, directed by Ralph, that produced 35 unanswered points and demonstrated clearly that the graduation of 1,400-yd. rusher Shawn Poma would not hamper the Dons’ ability to move the ball via the run.
Senior Zavien Watson gashed LCC for 139 yards and three TDs, one a 47-yd. burst, and junior Christian Hall pitched in with his own pair of sixes that included a beautiful 64-yd. sweep and cutback on the first play following a fourth down Cathedral defensive stop in the second quarter. For Doyle, the real beauty was in the multi-faceted manner his charges performed.
“We played well across board,” he said. “We threw the ball well, ran well, didn’t have any of the dumb penalties you often have in the first game and our defense rallied to the ball.
“And LCC’s got some good players, they’re going to be a good team.”
The outcome was not exactly what Maverick Head Coach Sean Sovacool had hoped for but he came in with his eyes open, knowing it was going to take a near perfect effort to go home with a “W.”
“They’re a really good team, super-talented,” smiled Sovacool afterward. “When you’ve got nine offensive starters back from a CIF championship team that’s a great place to start and there’s a lot of depth over there.”
LCC didn’t help itself, collecting several costly penalties and just missing on a number of open passing opportunities. There was also some bad luck in the form of injuries (among others, two-way junior starter Holden Tindell went down in the game’s second series) and star linebacker Ozzie Nicholas was ejected in the first quarter after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
“Not much went in our favor tonight but I think we let our emotions get the better of us a couple of times,” said Sovacool, whose outfit was ranked No. 8 in the Union-Tribune’s San Diego pre-season poll. “A lot of what happened was self-inflicted but it was the kind of stuff that is definitely correctable.
“There were also lot of positive plays on both sides of the ball as well as the kicking game. We’re very capable of success and we’ll find it.” The coach’s senior quarterback, Marshall Eucker, also left the field Friday in a forward-looking frame of mind.
“We had some flashes of really good stuff on offense, had some good drives, just couldn’t quite punch it in,” said Eucker. “In a way it was reassuring going into next week that the offense is going to be able to make plays this year.” Eucker’s counterpart at Cathedral, the 6-3 lefty Ralph, felt like his side quieted any doubters.
“I was really pleased with just how we played together,” said Ralph. “We lost a lot of talented players off last year’s team but I think we proved tonight that it’s not a rebuilding year.
“We were really clicking out there and I think it’s impressive that we’re clicking this early in the season—now we’ve just got to keep improving, keep getting better every week.”
Cathedral Catholic hosts Saguaro (Scottsdale, AZ) in this Saturday’s Honor Bowl. Kick off is at 4 p.m. Meanwhile, LCC will battle Vista in its home opener Friday, Aug. 30, at 7 p.m.
Torrey Pines Gridders impressive in the first test of 2019
High expectations are part of the environment surrounding the Torrey Pines High School football team. But coming off a sterling, 10-1, 2018 season that ended in the championship game of the CIF Open Division Playoffs, those expectations may have been tempered a bit given the senior-heavy nature of last year’s squad and the uncertainty linked to a lineup of relatively untested talent.
Unable to rely on departed standouts that included the likes of Mac Bingham, Brian Driscoll, Jason Heine, Michael Stearns and Evan Galluzzi, the new look Falcons demonstrated Friday night that they may have more in common with their predecessors than some may have thought. Fighting through a wobbly first half, Torrey Pines took control in the final two quarters to overpower visiting Los Alamitos, 35-10.
In the eyes of Torrey Head Coach Ron Gladnick, the victory against a traditional Orange County power, one that had gone 49-21-1 over the past six years, had its source in his program’s history.
“We’ve got some good players, but from day one we teach and preach culture,” said Gladnick. “This was a culture win tonight as much as a physical win. It was about kids refusing to not be successful.”
The Falcons had their mettle tested early. Los Al scored on its first possession and after Torrey evened the score, the Griffins regained the lead, 10-7, with a mid-second quarter field goal. It would be the last points they registered.
On its final possession of the first half, Torrey pulled ahead for the first time as sophomore quarterback Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi hooked up with tight end Matt Lauer for a 32-yd. score, making it 14-10 at the break.
The momentum swing from the late score carried over into the second half as the hosts put together a six and a half minute TD drive to open the third period and were in control from there.
Gladnick said his team’s defense set the stage for the final outcome. “We played great defense all night,” he said. “ The offense struggled in the first half but we came up with three interceptions that really kept us in the game.
“Our guys played tough and we bent them to our will in the second half. After a while, the accumulated wear and tear started to affect them and runs that had been going for one or two yards started turning into fours, fives, sixes and 10s.”
Although the Falcons were true to form, running the ball nearly twice as often as passing out of their traditional Wing T, they actually piled up more yards through the air (168) than on the ground (154). Senior Dorian Lewis was the top ball carrier with 61 yards on 10 carries and junior Griffen Wilson netted 70 yards on his four pass receptions.
Fowler-Nicolosi got the job done in his first varsity start, completing 7-of-14 for 135 yds. and a touchdown.
“He did well,” evaluated Gladnick. “Made some hard throws, missed some easy ones but he’s going to be a very good player with a little time and seasoning.” That assessment seems applicable to the squad as a whole.
“To be honest, I was impressed that our young kids played at a much higher level than I expected against a very good team,” Gladnick added. “We made a ton of mistakes but overcame them and showed a lot of competitive spirit doing it. We’ll get better.”
Torrey Pines hits the road Friday, Aug. 30,facing another Orange County toughie, San Clemente. Start time is 7 p.m.