K. Mennem 7:17 p.m., June 17
Dons stun top-ranked Titans with defense, special teams
CHULA VISTA – Top-ranked Eastlake wasn’t at its best on Friday night, and Cathedral Catholic took advantage. The seventh-ranked Dons used defense and special teams to upset Eastlake 26-7, unseating the Titans from the No. 1 spot.
“We came out with the attitude to prove ourselves, and that goes a long way against a good team,” said Cathedral Catholic linebacker Russell Reeder. “Every single person wanted it on this team and that’s what happens when every single person wants it that bad.”
Cathedral Catholic (4-1) led 7-0 at halftime on a JJ Stavola 1-yard touchdown run, and in the third quarter the Dons extended that lead by blocking consecutive Eastlake punts. With 8:41 to play in the quarter, Cathedral Catholic linebacker Jake Terzoli blocked a punt out of the end zone for a safety that put the Dons ahead nine.
“I saw them double teaming our defensive end and I swam my guy, ran as hard as I could, stuck a hand out and blocked it,” Terzoli said. “I wasn’t expecting it at all.”
After the free kick, Eastlake defensive back Isiah Olave intercepted a deep pass by Cathedral Catholic quarterback Garrett Bogart. But pinned deep in its own territory, Eastlake (4-1) couldn’t get a first down and was forced to punt – a kick blocked by Cathedral Catholic linebacker Chris Clifford and recovered at the Titans’ 12-yard line.
“Our special teams coach thought all week that we could get them, and we got some nice blocks,” said Cathedral Catholic head coach Sean Doyle. “We actually ran two different blocking stunts and got them both times.”
Following the second blocked punt, Cathedral Catholic’s offense took advantage of the short field. The Dons capped the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run by Chris Moliga that made it 16-0 with 3:46 left in the quarter.
“That kept the momentum going in our direction and did not allow them to gain confidence,” Doyle said.
Early in the fourth quarter, Cathedral Catholic delivered the knockout blow to top-ranked Eastlake. With 10:42 remaining in the game, Bogart connected with receiver Brian Heinz on a 42-yard touchdown that put the Dons ahead 23-0.
“The defense was unbelieveable and the offense put points on the board when we had to,” Doyle said.
Eastlake avoided the shutout with an Olave 5-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter, but the Titans had trouble moving the ball against Cathedral Catholic for most of the game. The Dons credited a dominant defensive performance to preparation during the week.
“We were running two different defenses almost each series,” Reeder said. “As an offense, I could imagine that’s pretty confusing but we had it down. We did everything extra during the week and it really paid off.”
In the second quarter, Cathedral Catholic made two key stops to keep Eastlake off the board. The second stop came in the closing seconds of the half, as the Dons stripped Titans running back Jude Isbell at the 2-yard line to prevent a potential game-tying score.
“We could have easily allowed them to score at the end of the first half, but we brought it,” Doyle said. “It was a big hit that made that ball come loose.”
Two weeks removed from a 34-point loss at Helix, Cathedral Catholic came into its game with No. 1 Eastlake looking to prove it could run with the section’s best. As a result, San Diego will have a new No. 1 team.
“This biggest thing that I hear around the county is that we can’t compete because we are a small school in Division III. We showed tonight that we can compete with anyone in this county,” Reeder said.