NCS football: Cardinal Newman blasts Campolindo

By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

It rained for the first three quarters Friday night at Cardinal Newman High, ranging from a light mist to a steady drizzle. It was cold. The turf was soggy. Stephen Tomasin was unperturbed.

Cardinal Newman's Lucas Bertoli intercepts a pass intended for Campolindo's Brett Stephens as Thomas Robles helps defend, Friday Nov. 19, 2010 as Newman advances to the second round of the playoffs with a victory over the Cougars from Campolindo High School. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat) 2010

“Coach (Paul Cronin) told us before the game, nothing we did could change the weather,” Tomasin said afterward. “We had to stay focused.”

That they did. Cardinal Newman rode Tomasin’s speed, strong offensive line play and a grabby defense to a 35-7 victory over Campolindo in the first round of the North Coast Section Division 3 playoffs.

Tomasin rushed for 170 yards on 18 carries and scored four touchdowns, including a 54-yard burst in the third quarter that gave the Cardinals a 28-0 lead and made the outcome all but academic.

“They just had to focus on stopping Steve,” Newman quarterback Matt Sullivan said. “You’ve got to stop him, and then that opens up the passing game. It affects the game a lot.”

Sullivan added a 4-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter, and Campolindo finally cracked the scoreboard on a triple-reverse pass from Brett Stephens to Vince Graziano with 1:03 left.

No. 2 seed Cardinal Newman (8-3) didn’t appear to dominate the game as much as the score would indicate. In the first half, as the Cardinals were busy building a 21-0 lead, they actually had just six first downs to Campolindo’s seven.

Newman punted from its own territory three times that half. But the Cardinals were opportunistic. Anytime they got a big play to threaten the No. 15 Cougars (5-6), or took over with good field position, they cashed in.

To a large degree, this was a game of real estate. Cardinal Newman blocked one punt, hurried a couple others into short kicks and generally won the war of field position.

The defense was stellar.

Cronin gave credit to defensive coaches Pat Piehl and Dennis Bruno for their game plan, especially against the pass. Campolindo’s Stephens averaged 130 passing yards per game during the season. He had 176 on 14-for-29 passing Friday, but threw four picks and never looked comfortable.

Lucas Bertoli, Tim Moreno, Daniel Benjamin and Garrett Guanella got the interceptions.

“That team is better than it showed tonight throwing the ball,” Cronin said. “Our defensive players did well.”

This was a rematch of a 2008 NCS Division 2 semifinal. Cardinal Newman won that one 38-28, and went on to win the section title.

Newman will play the winner of today’s Bishop O’Dowd-Ygnacio Valley game in the second round, and Cronin and his staff will be scouting that game at O’Dowd.

“We’ll go down there,” he said. “My wife won’t like it. But it’s another week of football.”

You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com.