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Dons upend Highlanders with stellar defense, special teams

CARMEL VALLEY – Cathedral Catholic struggled offensively against Helix on Friday night, but its defense and special teams led the Dons to an upset of the top-ranked Highlanders. Dons senior Parker Price intercepted three passes and scored the go-ahead touchdown on an 84-yard punt return in the fourth quarter as Cathedral Catholic prevailed in a come from behind 16-9 victory.

“It’s awesome – just to put ourselves back on the map and say we are a team to be reckoned with and that we can play with anybody in the county,” said Cathedral Catholic head coach Sean Doyle. “It’s a great win for our kids, and it gets that momentum going again.”

Early in the fourth quarter Price fielded a Helix punt off of a hop, made a cut to the sideline and took off downfield. The senior broke a tackle near midfield and raced the rest of the way untouched to give Cathedral Catholic (2-1) a seven-point lead with 8:35 left in the game.

“I kind of lost it in the lights and it bounced to me and hit off me, so I had to figure out how to get it back,” Price said. “I didn’t count how many guys I had to get through, I just put the moves on them. I’ve been working a lot with the coaches and we had a good scheme set for us to be successful.”

Cathedral Catholic stopped Helix (2-1) three times in the final eight minutes to hand the Highlanders their first loss of the season. Price intercepted Helix junior quarterback Josh Harris with 2:46 left and allowed Cathedral Catholic to run the clock down to 26.7 seconds, too little time for a comeback.

“We realized it was going to be tough to score on both sides of the ball, and that it was a dogfight,” said Cathedral Catholic senior defensive back Brandon Michel. “We realized we needed to hold them on every single possession and go hard on every possession – we didn’t want to let each other down.”

In the first quarter, Helix capitalized on Cathedral Catholic turnovers to take an early lead. An interception by senior defensive back Kendal Keys set up a 23-yard Marcus Norris field goal, and a Dons’ fumble on the next possession led to a two-yard touchdown run by senior Michael Adkins that put Helix ahead 9-0 late in the quarter.

“Everybody just kept each other up on defense and we never had a down part,” Price said. “We always encourage people and keep each other on the right foot.”

Cathedral Catholic’s defense kept the Dons in the game while its offense struggled to move the ball against Helix. Dons senior kicker Christian Fanning made field goals in each of the final three quarters, tying the game with 11:16 to play with a 42-yard field goal.

“We knew what we were getting into when we scheduled Helix, and we prepared well for this week,” Michel said. “We knew it was going to be like this.”

After falling behind early, Cathedral Catholic held Helix scoreless for the final three quarters to stun the visitors. The Dons stymied the talented Highlanders throughout the game by preventing big plays.

“We didn’t want anything going over our heads in the passing game and we just tried to reduce all the big runs,” Michel said. “They’re an explosive offense and really athletic and talented, so we tried to reduce big plays.”

With the victory, Cathedral Catholic bounced back from a stunning home loss to Torrey Pines the previous week. Michel said the Dons’ defeat to the rival Falcons served as motivation leading up to their game against top-ranked Helix.

“That game was a learning experience for all of us – we learned that we had to play together and play for each other, and play all four quarters,” Michel said. “We have to play hard every single play and every single down, and that’s what did it for us tonight.”

For Helix, the loss marks its first defeat since the opening week of last season. The defending state champion Highlanders won their first two games in lopsided fashion.

“It was a big challenge – we played our hearts out and in the end we lost,” said Helix senior lineman Amu Milo. “We just have to come back, work hard and focus for the next game.”

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Pictured: Cathedral Catholic senior quarterback Garrett Bogart scrambles between three Helix defenders

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