Cardinal Newman runs past Miramonte


Cardinal Newman's Garrett Guanella gets to Miramonte's QB Ross Anderson in the forth quarter at Miramonte High School in Orinda on Friday night December 3, 2010. This was the first interception of the season for Miramonte's QB Ross Anderson. SCOTT MANCHESTER / For The Press Democrat


ORINDA — Last season, one of Matt Sullivan’s teammates told him he needed a ritual, something to get his mind right for football. So the Cardinal Newman quarterback has taken to writing the phrase “full speed” on the backs of his hands, “full” on his right and “speed” on his left.

“I’ve played two games without it, and I played awful both times,” Sullivan said.

The script was there for him in a North Coast Section Division 3 semifinal game at Miramonte High on Friday night, and Sullivan and the Cardinals were indeed at full speed, ringing up an impressive 42-17 victory over the Matadors.

As he discussed his ritual, though, Sullivan quickly changed directions. “It wasn’t my hands,” he noted. “It was the team. We’ve been having great practices, and more and more we’ve been playing as a team.”

Cardinal Newman was 1-2 after a typically brutal preseason schedule that included losses to powerhouses Valley Christian of San Jose and Palma of Salinas. But after regrouping to go 6-1 in North Bay League play, the Cardinals seem to be hitting their stride at the perfect time. That’s 113 points in three NCS games, including 77 in the first halves.

This one had all the makings of a squeaker. The two programs have similar pedigrees — Cardinal Newman has 10 NCS championships, Miramonte seven. And they had similar power ratings this year; Newman is the No. 2 seed in Division 3, Miramonte the No. 3.
But the visitors were too fast and too well-drilled.

Stephen Tomasin continued to dismantle the North Coast competition, grinding out 206 yards and three touchdowns on 35 carries against Miramonte. The darting halfback now has 638 yards and 13 TDs in the postseason.

But Tomasin didn’t get his yards in the common manner. He’s usually the genie in the bottle, getting a short gain, a little opening there before — boom! — he hits you for an 80-yard burst. True, Tomasin got loose for a 31-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

But he had 30 runs of less than 10 yards, frequently pounding the ball up the middle on counters and traps.

Tomasin is generously listed at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds. Friday, he ran like a 230-pound bruiser.

Tomasin’s exploits don’t surprise anyone anymore. But at least as important against Miramonte was the passing and game management of Sullivan, who is emerging as a competent quarterback. He completed 10 of 17 passes for 203 yards Friday, delivering touchdown strikes to Tim Moreno, D.J. Mayogarl and Brian Albin as Cardinal Newman exploited holes in the Matadors’ secondary.

“Coach (Paul) Cronin saw it on film,” Sullivan said of the mismatches. “I think he’s gaining more confidence in me throwing it.”

Newman just doesn’t let its opponents get comfortable. Sullivan repeatedly faked the Matadors’ defense with hard counts. He didn’t draw any offside penalties, as the Cardinals had hoped, but it allowed them to see what the defense had planned. The quarterback would then look over to Cronin for instructions.

As usual, Newman, wasted little time calling and executing plays. When Miramonte tied the game at 7-7 on quarterback Ross Anderson’s 15-yard run, there were 34 seconds left in the first quarter. The stands on both sides of the field were girding for a dogfight.

But 2 minutes and 23 seconds later, it was 21-7 Cardinals. They went 83 yards in 1:08, finishing with Tomasin’s one long scoring run. And after Chris Quock’s interception — the first against Anderson all season — Sullivan needed just a single play to find Moreno for a 28-yard touchdown strike.

Newman scored again a 56-yard pass from Sullivan to Mayogarl later in the quarter, before giving up Anthony Piganelli’s 47-yard field goal just before halftime.

The Cardinals expanded on their 28-10 halftime lead with two more touchdowns in the third quarter. The second came on a fourth-and-inches dive by Tomasin, after the Matadors had stopped Cardinal Newman three times inside the 5-yard line.

Now Cronin’s team is gunning for section championship No. 11. They will face the winner of today’s Marin Catholic-Encinal game next weekend.

“W’re excited we won,” Sullivan said. “Now we just have to get ready to start preparing for next week’s game. “All it takes is hard work and effort.”

You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or