Dons defeated, but still determined

Dons defeated, but still determined

The Cathedral Catholic Dons Varsity football team opened its season last Friday with an upset 19-7 loss on the road against the La Costa Canyon High School Mavericks.

“We didn’t execute our plays very well early on,” Dons starting quarterback DJ Ralph ‘20 said. “We missed some key opportunities in crucial moments.”

Defense showed as the theme of the night when offense scored a combined 13 points headed into the fourth quarter. However, during the fourth quarter both offenses found the end zone, leading to a final score in the Mavericks favor.

Along with the poor execution, the offensive struggles could be accredited to a tenacious Maverick front seven that accounted for seven sacks.

“[LCC] was blitzing more than we were expecting,” Dons starting left guard Chase Lindgren ‘20 said. “In film, we noticed their outside backer moving up to the line after the defensive line executed their pre-snap stunts. While we did deal with these stunts during the game, the blitzing middle backers caused some confusion for the linemen with their assignments and blocking paths.

“Instead of crashing down hard on our blocks or on our pulls, we unfortunately became hesitant.”

The Mavericks, capitalizing on good field position, kicked off to an early lead, making two short range field goals in the first half. With the first half coming to a close and no touchdowns scored, Maverick quarterback Marshall Euker tossed a deep pass down the right sideline to wide receiver Trevor Gonzales for six to earn a comfortable 13-point lead headed into the half.

“Going into the half after Trevor scored, the whole team felt very confident,” Maverick wide receiver Blake Witsenburg said. “We had held CCHS to zero points, and we had been able to move the ball on offense. However, with that confidence also came a feeling of focus. We knew CCHS wouldn’t give up because they are an elite program with elite players and coaches.

“We knew the game wasn’t over yet.”

CCHS quickly proved Witsenburg correct as it remained persistent into the second half.

After the third quarter, a defensive stalemate, the Dons manufactured a long, strong-willed drive, highlighted by the return of star running back Shawn Poma ‘19 who was sidelined due to injury earlier in the game. A 49-yard completion from Ralph to Zion Sorani ‘19 placed the Dons in the red zone, where they capitalized with a touchdown run by Poma.

“Shawn was a little banged up early on in the game, but once he came back in, it changed the whole tone of the game,” Ralph said. “We were starting to get a rhythm going.”

LCC prepared for Poma, knowing the abilities he possesses.

“Coming in, we knew Poma is a great player and that he could run hard,” Maverick safety Garrett Woodard said. “We put emphasis on stopping his run game early so he could never really start and gain confidence, and we did just that with him not really impacting the game until the 4th quarter.”

Following the momentum manufacturing drive, the defense made a key stop, leading to the Dons in possession with two minutes to go and a single score game. The excitement and strain among the fans was tangible as the Dons seemed to gain momentum.

“During halftime, the morale of the team started to dip,” Lindgren said. “Thankfully, with an inspiring halftime speech from Coach Sean Doyle, an amazing catch from Zion, and a great finish by Shawn, we felt like we were still in the game, with a great chance of shaping up and taking the lead during the next possession.”

However, after a quick first down and CCHS in route to a masterful comeback, a fumble gave the Mavericks possession of the ball and of the game.

“When we recovered the fumble, the sideline relaxed because we knew we won the game,” Witsenburg said. “We were all super hyped and happy because we had just beaten one of the best teams in the county. That game was really a proving ground for LCC. That fumble recovery proved to the county that we have the ability to beat top tier teams, and that we are an elite team.”

The fumble came with a 41-yard rushing touchdown by track star and speedy running back Karson Lippert, putting the Mavericks up 19-7 and eliminating the Dons hopes of a comeback.

“We are obviously disappointed in the result,” CCHS defensive coordinator Mr. John Montali said. “It’s a long season so we have time to get a whole lot better. With that being said, in the world of football, every game is of tremendous importance. So, we will need that improvement to come very quickly. I think we are intrinsically motivated just putting on a CCHS uniform.

“The loss puts our backs against the wall a bit, but we try and come out ready to play and practice hard for every game of the season not matter what happened the previous week.”