No. 2 Cathedral gears for big finish after overpowering Otay Ranch

The Cathedral Catholic defense was dominating in Friday's victory over Otay Ranch.
(Ken Grosse)

Following second-ranked host Cathedral Catholic’s, 63-0, Friday night romp over Otay Ranch, the Dons’ junior running back Christian Hall mingled on the field with friends from the opposing side, posing for a photo with one of their blue helmets on. The visiting Mustangs could have used him in that helmet two hours earlier.

Hall was part of a relentless Cathedral ground game that pummeled Otay Ranch for 255 yards. For his part, the 5-foot, 10-inch, 188-pound Hall toted the ball five times for 40 yards, caught four passes from senior quarterback DJ Ralph for another 82 yards and picked up touchdowns both ways. In the wake of their Sept. 13 loss at Helix, the business-like Dons, now 5-1 on the season, have outscored their two most recent foes, 107-7. Hall feels like the loss has stiffened his team’s resolve.

“When we came in for film after the Helix loss, the coaches didn’t say anything except that it was a bad weekend for all of us,” recalled Hall, whose team was No. 1 in the county and No. 3 in the state going into that one. “We saw the rankings, heard what people were saying about us and just had to stay tough.

“We kept our mouths shut and started working. Extra conditioning, watching film, you name it—whatever it took to get better.”

Sophomore Tanoai Letuli was part of the Dons' deep, talented running corps.
(Ken Grosse)

Veteran Dons’ Coach Sean Doyle seems comfortable not only with where his club is sitting right now but the way it’s trending. Asked about being 5-1 after facing a murderous early season slate, Doyle grinned and said, “I’d rather be 6-0 but that’s how things work out. Most people would have thought there’s no way we’d be 5-1 right now with the schedule we had.

“But our goal is always to just play the best we can possibly play regardless of who we’re playing—it’s more internal, worrying about us. That said, I’m extremely happy with the way we’ve played and thought we did a pretty good job tonight.”

Cathedral wasted little time setting the tone against Otay Ranch. Senior Zavien Watson capped the opening drive by waltzing untouched into the end zone from one yard out and by the end of the first quarter, the Dons were cruising, 22-0. The margin increased to 36 by halftime.

Senior QB DJ Ralph threw for two TDs and ran for another.
(Ken Grosse)

Southpaw Ralph completed 9-of-13 passes for 145 yards and two TDs (one a 37-yard pass-run to Hall).

But this one was all about the running attack, the swarming Dons’ defense and an out-manned adversary. Eight different ball carriers hit the stat sheet for Cathedral and six of them lugged it in for touchdowns (Watson twice).

“I think we have the best running backs in the county,” said Hall with no trace of arrogance. “We train consistently, run the ball a lot and have a piece of equipment we call ‘the fingers of love’ that we run through all the time to help with our ball security.

“We push our bodies to the max. It’s a competition out here and coach always has us going against each other. You have to be a dawg to play at Cathedral.”

The offense had to share the spotlight with a Jordan Allen-led defensive unit. A 6-2, 210-pound senior, Allen racked up seven tackles, a sack and a blocked punt as Cathedral allowed the Mustangs across midfield only twice. Punting woes were indicative of the type of night it was for Coach Lance Christensen’s outfit. Otay’s first four punts of the evening resulted in two blocks and a pair of errant snaps that produced short, wobbly boots and excellent field position for the Dons. Christensen opted to go for it in lieu of punting on the next fourth down situation.

“I thought across the board on everything—special teams, offensive and defense—we played not our best but more towards our best,” observed Doyle. “We made a couple of mistakes we’ve got to get rid of if we want to get by Saints (St. Augustine) and Lincoln and into the Open Division Playoffs and Championship.

“There’s always room to improve and that’s good at this point of the season. We want to be our best in about five weeks when it’s playoff time.”

And just past the midway point of the 2019 campaign, how does the coach assess his squad’s chances at successfully defending it’s CIF Open Division title.

“As far as the section, ‘yes,’ I think we are capable of winning it but then I do every year,” said Doyle. “A couple of years ago we were 5-7 and I still thought we were good enough. Like I said, we’re playing pretty well, we’ve got some areas to clean up but we’ll work on them and we’ve still got plenty of time.”

Count Hall as one who concurs with his coach’s post-season appraisal. “We have a lot of confidence and know what we have to do,” declared Hall. “We have to be humble, stay low, don’t say much and keep working on it. Continue to do that, keep winning and things will take care of themselves.”

Cathedral Catholic is back in action this Friday (Oct. 4) at home against Point Loma and travels to Madison a week later. The Dons close out the regular season with a pair of huge Western League clashes, vs. St. Augustine (Oct. 18) and Lincoln (Nov. 1).