By RICHARD J. MARCUS
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
As expected, Cardinal Newman opened its season with an easy home victory, defeating Modesto Christian 48-20 in a nonleague game on Friday night.
Cardinal Newman (1-0) took care of business early in a game that wasn’t as close as the score would indicate. The Crusaders (0-1) of the Sac-Joaquin Section offered little resistance to a balanced Cardinals attack on offense. Cardinal Newman took a 21-0 lead with 1:18 to play in the first quarter and never looked back.
Cardinals coach Paul Cronin said he was satisfied with his team’s effort and execution in the season’s opening game.
“I thought we had some guys play well,” he said.
The Cardinals drove down the field on their first possession and scored two minutes into the game on a 2-yard run by Phil Wright. Five minutes later, Wright scored again on a 6-yard rumble to give Cardinal Newman a 14-0 lead.
Just four minutes after that, Wright was the recipient of a 16-yard touchdown pass from Cardinals junior quarterback Keaton Dunsford to give Cardinal Newman a 21-0 lead.
Cardinal Newman tacked on two more touchdowns midway in the second quarter to take a 35-0 lead, and the rout was on. The scores came via a Dunsford toss to Kenny Carter for a 13-yard score and a 5-yard pass to Wright.
“I thought our QB (Dunsford) had a pretty good game as a junior in his first start,” Cronin said. “He played pretty consistently.”
Dunsford played barely more than one half and was lifted early in the third quarter as the Cardinals put in their second string. Dunsford completed 13 of 19 passes for 208 yards and four touchdowns.
On the ground, Cardinal Newman was led by the evasive Carter, who ran for 129 yards on nine carries.
“Oh my gosh, Carter is a good player,” Cronin said of his tailback.
The Crusaders finally broke through with a touchdown late in the second quarter on a 3-yard pass from quarterback Zack Megee to receiver Damien Bell-White to make the score 35-8 in favor of the Cardinals.
Cardinal Newman, however, put the game away for good with two touchdowns in the third quarter, including a 35-yard score from Dunsford to receiver Jacob Webb.
While the offensive was putting up big numbers, the Cardinal Newman first string defense was solid throughout. Megee (14-of-26, 200 yards and three touchdowns) was harried on almost every pass attempt and the Crusaders had virtually no ground game to keep Cardinal Newman’s rush off balance.
“Our defense is always tough,” Cronin said. “We have some great senior leadership (on defense).”
Perhaps the only thing that stood out as a negative for Cardinal Newman was a large number of penalties, something that will likely get fixed as the season wears on and the kinks get worked out in practice.
“I’m looking forward to looking at the film of this game,” Cronin said.
“Often times the biggest growth a team has in a season is between the first and second games.”