Newman slays the Dragons

Cardinal Newman played a postseason game in Oakland on Friday night. (SCOTT MANCHESTER / PD).

OAKLAND — They looked good, coming off the bus Friday night, the Bishop O’Dowd players.

“If this was a body-building contest,” said Cardinal Newman coach Paul Cronin to his players before the game Friday night, “we’d lose. But this isn’t a body-building contest.”

If this was a contest on just pure athletic ability, Newman wouldn’t have won either.
“I got seven players who will play D1 college football,” said O’Dowd coach Hardy Nickerson, the former Cal star who played 16 years in the NFL. “We do things at the highest level here. I have taken all my experience as a player and a coach and applied it to this football team. We have so much talent that we can make the necessary adjustments. Teams just don’t know what’s coming.”

So much for appearances. So much for conversation.

The smaller, less athletic Cardinal Newman Cardinals pinned O’Dowd like a helpless puppy, absolutely crushing the Dragons, 56-35, in a D3 NCS playoff game that shocked anyone who based opinion on appearances.

“The East Bay supposedly has the better teams and we are just this small school from Santa Rosa,” said Newman running Stephen Tomasin.

“But by the third quarter, after we scored twice (in the period) I could tell by their body language that they didn’t have their high hopes anymore.”

That would be because of the Newman defense which forced all those D1 players to scratch for touchdowns and, most impressively and importantly, because of Tomasin, who looked like the best D1 player out there — if talent is to be judged by a single game.

Tomasin had a game that should make a number of colleges pay attention. He scored six touchdowns, running for four, catching two and putting up numbers that will drop jaws.
Tomasin ran 16 times for 232 yards, including a 60-yarder. He caught four passes for 76 yards. He was dominant the way, and I hate to keep coming back to it, a D1-bound player should be. His performance was made all the more impressive because he had to be pushed into a compliment.

“Yes,” Tomasin, a junior, said, “I guess I am playing the best football I ever played.”

To Tomasin’s total add the 107 yards quarterback Matt Sullivan picked up in 12 carries.

That’s 339 yards the Cardinals picked up on the ground, averaging 12.1 yards a carry between the two players. What was nearly as amazing as the number was the repetitiveness of the play that produced those numbers. Counting a few quarterback draws, the same play was run over and over and over, Sullivan putting the ball in the belly of Tomasin, then either pulling it or handing it off. Over and over and over.

“What we saw on film,” Cronin said, “was that we could make some yardage when we would line up three wide receivers to the strong side and then run to the weakside. They never really made adjustments to that.”

So under the heading of “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It,” Newman ran that play, waiting for O’Dowd to react and cover it. Didn’t happen. That, coupled with the Dragons being overaggressive on defense and over-pursuing, led Newman to a total of 425 yards total offense. Not bad for a scrawny team.

“It’s easy to tell who the D1 kids are by looking at their film,” Cronin said of O’Dowd before the game.

It was also easy to tell who was having the most effect on the game, a point never more dramatically demonstrated than in the fourth quarter, when Tomasin scored his sixth and last touchdown, a 22-yard run, when he flattened Dragon defensive back Carlton Francis with 6:13 left in the game. Tomasin could have tried to evade Francis or run right at him. Tomasin chose the latter, as a matter of pride.

“On all of my long runs,” Tomasin said, “he was the one who had tackled me. So this time I wanted to go straight into him.” Tomasin, 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, hit Francis — 5-foot-9, 180 — so hard that the Dragon defensive back remained motionless face-down on the ground after Tomasin hit him on the way to the touchdown. After a few minutes Francis rose shakily to his feet and left under his own power. He was stunned, certainly. He wasn’t alone. His teammates were as well.

After all, Bishop O’Dowd came into this game with a 10-1 record, having allowed only 12.3 points a game.

“We got some things to clean up,” said Cronin after the game to his team, referring to three penalties that contributed greatly to three O’Dowd touchdowns. Then again, Cronin didn’t have a lot of times to fixate on what went wrong. After all, scoring eight touchdowns in one game has a tendency to fill up most conversations.

For more North Bay sports go to Bob Padecky’s blog at padecky.blog.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist at 521-5223 or bob.padecky@pressdemocrat.com