Scott Ellis 4:30 a.m., Sept. 17
Division III: Cathedral Catholic vs Lincoln
Lincoln quarterback Erick Jones scrambles outside the pocket with Cathedral Catholic linebackers Eric Shlemon (45) and Hugh Yoder (2) in pursuit
Dons stifle Hornets to take fourth straight section title
QUALCOMM STADIUM – In a season that started with three losses in a row, Cathedral Catholic still found its way to a fourth straight section title. The 3-seed Dons delivered a businesslike 24-7 victory over 5-seed Lincoln in the Division III finals on Monday.
“We were down a lot, but the whole team stayed together the whole time,” said Cathedral Catholic running back Jonny Martin. “We just had a feeling that we knew that we would be back here at the end of the season.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Cathedral Catholic (8-5) broke through midway through the second. With 5:42 left in the half, Dons quarterback Garrett Bogart connected with wide open running back J.J. Stavola down the middle for a 20-yard touchdown.
Cathedral Catholic added a 20-yard Jacob Roman field goal just before the half to take a 10-0 lead. Both defenses dominated a scoreless third quarter, as Lincoln (7-7) and Cathedral Catholic combined for four punts, a turnover on downs and an interception.
“We didn’t really need to be flashy, we didn’t need it to be close,” said Cathedral Catholic defensive back Eric Sapp.
Sapp’s interception near the end of the third quarter set the Dons up in Lincoln territory at the beginning of the fourth. Cathedral Catholic turned that pick into points when Martin ran 23 yards outside for a score behind an overloaded left side of the line to make it a 17-0 game.
“That’s one of my favorite formations, having about 800 pounds in front of me on the offensive line,” Martin said of the Dons’ ‘Chicago’ jumbo package. “It’s pretty much unstoppable with big kids like that.”
Lincoln avoided the shutout by getting on the board with a 12-yard pass from Erick Jones to Tyree Robinson midway through the fourth quarter. The Hornets got the ball back down by 10 with 3:28 left, but were unable to move it against Cathedral’s swarming defense.
“Coach (John) Montali is the best coordinator in San Diego County and he does and absolutely tremendous job week in and week out,” said Cathedral Catholic head coach Sean Doyle. “We played great defense until the very, very end.”
Martin added a four-yard touchdown late to seal the 24-7 victory for Cathedral Catholic. The Dons have won in Qualcomm Stadium each of the past four seasons.
“That’s coaching, because whatever team you put with the coaching staff we have, they’re going to come and they’re going to win,” Martin said. “We know when we go to the ‘Q’ we’re not coming just to play a game, we’re coming to win the game. We do that every year.”
After losing their first three games and four of their first five, it looked like Cathedral Catholic would have a hard time winning their fourth championship in a row. But the Dons won four of their next five games and stormed through the Division III playoffs to take home another section title.
“It was a little bit of a rocky road for while, but we had a really tough schedule, we knew it was going to pay dividends in the playoffs and it really did,” Sapp said. “In our three playoff games we brought our ‘A’ game and nobody could compete with us.”