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Dons shake slow start, best rival Saints to capture Holy Bowl

CLAIREMONT MESA – Cathedral Catholic fell behind by two scores against St. Augustine in the Holy Bowl on Friday night, then dominated the second half to deliver a victory. The third-ranked Dons scored three third-quarter touchdowns and held on for a 28-20 victory over the eighth-ranked Saints before a sellout crowd at Mesa College.

“We had a hard week of practice and our determination really led the way,” said Cathedral Catholic senior defensive back Parker Price. “This win is really important – they’re our rivals.”

St. Augustine (6-2, 1-1 Eastern) led 14-7 at halftime, an advantage that quickly vanished in the third quarter. On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, Cathedral Catholic senior running back Tony Johnson broke a 77-yard touchdown run to tie the game and set the tone for the remaining two quarters.

“I didn’t find the right holes in the first half and I wasn’t hitting them hard enough,” Johnson said. “We just made a change, the line blocked the right people and I hit the hole hard enough. I just made that one cut and ran for the touchdown.”

On the ensuing drive, St. Augustine had the ball deep in Cathedral Catholic territory and appeared poised to retake the lead. But when a host of Dons defenders slowed Saints freshman running back Francoise Sims II at the end of a run near the goal line, Price ripped the ball away and raced in the opposite direction for a 95-yard touchdown return that gave Cathedral Catholic (6-2, 3-0) its first lead of the game.

“I just stripped it out of his hands and found it in my hands, so I started running,” Price said. “I was surprised that I had it – it’s not usually that clean of a strip.”

After a defensive stop, Cathedral Catholic drove 86 yards in less than three minutes to take a 14-point lead. Dons senior quarterback Garrett Bogart connected with junior running back Chris Moliga for a 19-yard touchdown with 1:02 left in the third quarter, the last of three Cathedral Catholic scores in the period.

“We started to believe a lot more in the second half. That first touchdown really sparked us and we had a good halftime talk – our coaches put us in the right spot to make plays,” Price said.

The fourth quarter was a defensive stalemate that allowed Cathedral Catholic to prevail. St. Augustine scored with 18.5 seconds left on a 12-yard pass from senior quarterback JoJo Hudson to senior receiver Patrick Dixon, but Price recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal the victory for the Dons.

“This rivalry means a lot to us and all the alumni because Saints are our big time rivals – it’s a good victory,” said Cathedral Catholic senior linebacker Toshaun Poumele.

While Cathedral Catholic dominated after halftime, the first half belonged to St. Augustine. The Saints built a 14-0 lead with a pair of touchdown runs by freshman running back Elijah Preston, and controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

Late in the second quarter, St. Augustine was on the verge of taking complete control of the contest when Cathedral Catholic’s defense came up with a game-changing turnover. Dons senior defensive back Brandon Michel intercepted a Hudson pass and returned it to the Saints’ 28-yard line, and two plays later Bogart threw a touchdown pass to senior running back Theo Hardson to make it 14-7 with 47 seconds left in the first half.

“We knew we could come back if we played our football,” Poumele said. “We played mistake-free football in the second half and we came together as a team.”

Cathedral Catholic has won the last two Holy Bowls and six of its last seven meetings against St. Augustine. With the Saints in Division IV, Friday night’s game marked the only installment of the religious rivalry this season.

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