Heavyweight schedule benefits Newman

Cardinal Newman’s Stephen Tomasin picks up yards as Maria Carrillo’s Julian gonzalez, left, and Maria Carrillo’s Sam Atoe try to stop him. (Poto by Crista Jeremiason / PD).

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Playing heavyweight teams from beyond the North Bay paid dividends for Cardinal Newman as the Cardinals powered to a 28-0 win over Maria Carrillo in the North Bay League opener for both teams Friday night.

Running the ball with authority, the Cardinals scored on their first two possessions in the contest and Cardinal Newman’s defense kept Pumas’ quarterback Sam Atoe in check for the shutout at Maria Carrillo.

While the Maria Carrillo defense dug in to keep the game close deep into the third quarter, the Pumas offense managed only four first downs in the game.

Both teams came into the NBL opener looking to end two-game losing streaks. The Pumas suffered a pair of close defeats to Casa Grande and Windsor, two of the Sonoma County League’s top teams. The Cardinals were coming off lopsided losses to Bay Area power Valley Christian and Palma, a tough squad from Salinas, after opening with a tight win over Central Catholic.

“Playing those teams really got us mentally and physically tough,” said Cardinals’ quarterback Matt Sullivan. “We came out with some pride to show. Everything was just clicking tonight.”

Leading the Cardinals were Stephen Tomasin with 26 carries for 137 yards — 96 in the first half — and a pair of touchdowns. Sullivan ran for 106 yards, including keepers of 38 and 24 yards, and a touchdown.

With both teams relying on the run, Maria Carrillo’s offensive line couldn’t open large enough holes or give Atoe enough time to pass against the Cardinal Newman defensive front. Atoe was limited to 64 yards on 12 carries before leaving the game late with a stinger after making a tackle.

“Overall they played good defense. We just had a hard time finding our rhythm,” said Maria Carrillo coach Jay Higgins.

The Pumas and Cardinals closed NBL play last season in a stirring game with Cardinal Newman pulling out a tight victory.

This year’s contest was a one-sided affair.

Cardinal Newman moved the ball 41 yards on nine plays for a touchdown on the game’s first drive. Tomasin ran the ball four times for 32 yards and Sullivan kept the ball the final 3 yards for the score.

Maria Carrillo couldn’t answer, unable to make a first down on its first two possessions.

Taking advantage of a short field following the Pumas initial punt, the Cardinals went 44 yards in nine plays for their second touchdown. This time, Tomasin ran in from 4 yards out.

“Our offensive line was just pounding. So we just stayed with it,” Sullivan said.

After a time out in the second quarter, Maria Carrillo’s defense stiffened. The Pumas slowed Cardinal Newman’s running game and Atoe intercepted a third down pass off a deflection in the end zone for a touchback.

While the Pumas managed their initial first down on the following possession, Maria Carrillo punted four plays later.

Another strong defensive stand by the Pumas and a Cardinal Newman penalty forced a punt. Defensive back Julian Gonzalez made the Pumas next big play, tackling the Cardinals kicker at midfield following a low snap.

The teams exchanged punts to close a half that re-established the Cardinals running game and left the Pumas looking for an offensive spark. Cardinal Newman ran nearly twice as many plays as Maria Carrillo, which managed only a pair of first downs.

After another Pumas punt, Cardinal Newman methodically marched up the field on a 14-play drive for a 21-0 lead. Tomasin scored on a fourth down run from 2 yards out.

Opening the second half strong after mistakes prevented Cardinal Newman from increasing its lead earlier was a good sign for a team seeking improvement each week, said Cardinals’ coach Paul Cronin.

“We knew we were playing a good team,” he said. “We’ve got to improve our consistency as a team both offensively and defensively. For us, I hope the players can use this as a steppingstone.”

You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or mike.coit@pressdemocrat.com.