Newman, Bowman seek return to greatness

Cardinal Newman all-Empire linebacker Matt Bowman. (KENT PORTER / PD, 2010)

By ERIC BRANCH
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

As the lone holdover from Cardinal Newman’s last great team, senior Matt Bowman understands his program’s proud tradition better than most.

And Bowman, who played as a sophomore on the Cardinals’ 2008 team that reached the state title game, is just the type to will his program back to the top.

After a 7-5 season that, by Newman’s standards, was disastrous, the Cardinals appear poised to return to form.

Newman, which went 37-5-1 from 2006-08, returns 15 starters from last year’s team. The old faces include eight from a stingy defense, including all-Empire linebacker Garrett Guanella and nose guard Courtland Palmer, who earned all-league recognition as a sophomore.

But the heartbeat of the unit is Bowman, an all-Empire middle linebacker who also gained 262 yards and averaged 6.4 yards a carry as a hard-charging running back.

“He’s a throwback,” Cardinal Newman coach Paul Cronin said. “He’s a Rocky Balboa kind of guy. He always looks like he’s kind of beat up.”

For the latter part of the 2009 season, Bowman was indeed battered. Due to a shoulder injury that required arthroscopic surgery in the offseason, Bowman played with a shoulder harness during Newman’s two playoff games. Cronin says Bowman didn’t discuss his injury. And he didn’t miss a practice.

Bowman says part of his gritty attitude comes from playing with his older brother, Tyler, on Newman’s 2008 team that went 13-1.

“It definitely made me a better player,” Bowman said. “Playing with all those great players, I saw the tempo they played with in practice and how hard they worked. I try to set that same type of example.”

Such an example will be vital this season. Cronin takes responsibility for Newman’s first five-loss season since 1998, which he believes was partly attributable to a relaxed work ethic.

Cronin says he and his coaching staff didn’t work as hard, and it carried down to the players.

“That’s something our great teams did a great job of — our effort was phenomenal,” Cronin said. “That’s our big thing. We’re going to be as hard-working a group as we can possibly be.”

Not surprisingly, Bowman is on board.

“We had a lot of fun last year, but we didn’t hold ourselves to the same high standards,” he said. “We’re getting back to that this year.”

TEAM PREVIEW

CARDINAL NEWMAN
Coach: Paul Cronin, (8th season, 71-17-1 record)
2009 record: 7-5, 6-1 NBL (2nd)
2009 JV record: 9-1
Returning starters: OFFENSE (7): WR Brian Albin, Sr.; LG Christian Alvarez, Sr.; RB Matt Bowman, Sr.; RT Austin Hegg, WR Tim Moreno, Sr.; WR Chris Quock, Sr.; QB Matt Sullivan, Jr. DEFENSE (8): CB Brian Albin, Sr.; SS Lucas Bertoli, Sr.; MLB Matt Bowman, Sr.; OLB Garrett Guanella, Sr.; DE Ryan McCandless, Sr.; CB Tim Moreno, Sr.; NG Courtland Palmer, Jr.; S Chris Quock, Sr.
Players to watch: OLB Garrett Guanella: Athletic 6-5 senior earned second-team All-Empire honors last year. QB Matt Sullivan: Junior will take the reigns of offense which figures to feature plenty of the forward pass.
Newcomer to watch: FB/DL Phil Wright: Made his varsity debut as a freshman last year, playing in two playoff games on defense.

SCHEDULE
Date – Opponent – Time

9-4 – vs. Central Catholic at Loomis – 2 p.m.
9-17 – vs. Valley Christian – 7 p.m.
9-25 – vs. Palma – 7 p.m.
10-1 – at Maria Carrillo – 7:30 p.m.
10-8 – at Elsie Allen – 7:30 p.m.
10-15 – vs. Ukiah – 7 p.m.
10-22 – at Montgomery – 7:30 p.m.
10-29 – at Rancho Cotate – 7:30 p.m.
11-5 – vs. Piner – 7:30 p.m.
11-12 – vs. Santa Rosa – 7 p.m.

BY THE NUMBERS
.875:
Postseason winning percentage since 2006 (14-2).
6: Games in which defense limited opponents to fewer than 15 points last year.
11: Prior to 2009, years since last five-loss season.