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Cardinal Newman football: Sullivan ready to pick up pace

By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Did Cardinal Newman coach Paul Cronin devise the perfect offense for his starting quarterback, Matt Sullivan? Or is Sullivan the perfect guy to be running Cronin’s intricate offense?

At Newman they have learned to stop asking and just enjoy the show.

The offense that the Cardinals currently run is aggressive and unpredictable. They don’t like to huddle. In fact, they rarely take more than 20 seconds between plays, a pace that frequently can get a defense back on its heels. Newman doesn’t post football statistics, but the team averaged 35.6 points in 14 games last year, and 42 in four North Coast Section playoff games.

This is how it looks: Sullivan will hustle his teammates to the line, then look to Cronin on the sidelines for his play call. The coach makes his choice after surveying the defense, but he still leaves a lot on the shoulders of his QB. Sullivan says that even after getting the play, he is looking for pre-snap adjustments, reading his “keys” — not just the safeties but practically any defensive player, depending on the play — noting pass coverage, etc.

“Our quarterback has to make decisions,” Cronin said.

And Sullivan tends to make good ones. Standing about 5-foot-8, not blessed with a cannon for an arm, Sullivan isn’t a classic pocket quarterback. But he is tough, athletic and poised, adept at throwing on the run in the short-to-medium zone.

“He’s a leader,” Cronin said. “I think God just gives you that. It’s not something we can coach. The kids respect how hard he works in the weight room in the offseason. Players who work that hard, it makes you proud to be a coach.”

Last January, with the 2010 NCS Division 3 championship season only recently put to rest, Sullivan was usually in the door of the Cardinal Newman weight room at 6:15 a.m. on school days, along with a band of committed teammates. On the field, he has a contagious confidence. Sullivan started as a sophomore, and was nervous at first. Last year, he says, he made tremendous mental strides between the opener against Central Catholic and the 35-7 title-game victory over Encinal.

Now he’s ready to pick up where he left, feeling pretty good in Cronin’s offense.

“I wouldn’t say comfortable. I’d say excited,” Sullivan said. “You can’t feel comfortable in football. I’ve got a lot of learning to do still. But I’m really excited about this season.”

CARDINAL NEWMAN

Coach: Paul Cronin (ninth season, 82-20-1)

2010 record: 11-3 overall, 6-1 NBL

2010 JV record: 9-1

Returning starters: OFFENSE, 5: QB Matt Sullivan, Sr.; RB Stephen Tomasin, Sr.; RB Bryan Nunez, Sr.; WR D.J. Mayogarl, Sr.; WR Alex Roberts, Sr. DEFENSE, 7: DL Nolan Sheahan, Jr.; DL Jake Hargrove, Sr.; DL Joe Personeni, Sr.; LB Courtland Palmer, Sr.; LB Thomas Robles, Sr.; LB Scooby Wright, Sr.; LB Stephen Tomasin, Sr.

Players to Watch: RB Stephen Tomasin: Second-team All-Empire pick from 2010 has speed, strength and vision through the hole. LB Courtland Palmer: Roams sideline to sideline and hits with force.

Newcomer to Watch: C Nolan Nagle and RG Matt Bauer: OK, they aren’t really new to the team, but both played almost exclusively on defense last year.

SCHEDULE

Sept. 2 — Concord – 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 – Alhambra – 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 – at Valley Christian – 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 23 – at Palma – 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 30 – Maria Carrillo – 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 – at Ukiah – 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 21 – Montgomery – 7 p.m.
Oct. 28 – Rancho Cotate – 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 5 – at Piner – 1 p.m.
Nov. 11 – at Santa Rosa – 7:30 p.m.