Football preview: Cardinal Newman looks for new stars

By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Cardinal Newman senior Jeff Robello finds running room during practice on Saturday. (KENT PORTER /The Press Democrat)

Cardinal Newman senior Jeff Robello finds running room during practice on Saturday. (KENT PORTER /The Press Democrat)

Cardinal Newman football is known for its depth. Standout players graduate and leave the program, and a new wave of talent steps in to fill the void. That reputation will be put to the test this year as the Cardinals seek to replace a strong class of departed seniors.

Look at the defensive side of the ball. Cardinal Newman had six All-North Bay League first-team defensive players and five second-team players in 2012. That’s 11 players, enough for an entire defensive unit. All of them were seniors.

Longtime Cardinals coach Paul Cronin points out that seniors tend to get the postseason accolades, and that several of the kids returning to his defense made considerable contributions a year ago. They would include defensive backs Kevin Lucey and Dylan Kolman, linebacker Chris Kemmerer, and linemen Sam Styles and Will Andrews.

“Those five guys were significant in the game last year,” Cronin said.

Still, this truly is a revamped Newman team. You know the Cardinals will be in the league title hunt, because they always are. But it’s hard to say if this is a Cardinal Newman team destined for a memorable postseason run like the squads that captured North Coast Section championships under Cronin in 2005, 2006 and 2010.

Cronin will build his offense around senior quarterback Keaton Dunsford, an NBL first-team pick last year. Dunsford is tall, poised and experienced, having passed for 2,406 yards and 24 touchdowns while completing 69 percent of his passes as a junior. Dunsford has one of his top targets back in Lucey, who caught 35 passes for 594 yards as a sophomore wide receiver last year.

The Cardinal Newman running game is a bigger question mark. The Cardinals have three senior starters on the offensive line, a group that Cronin believes could become a strength. But with last year’s 1,000-yard rusher, Kenny Carter, having graduated, Dunsford will be handing the ball primarily to unproven junior tailback Zach Stoltz.

“Zach reminds me personally of Stephen Tomasin,” Cronin said, referring to Newman’s star running back of 2010-11.
“He’s got great hands. He’s a tough guy, so he does a good job with his protection. He’s kind of a slasher as a runner. He’s not gonna run a 4.2 40, but if he gets to the next level he’ll be able to make some long plays happen.”

Cronin always puts together a tough preseason schedule in hope of earning an invitation to the state title game in December, and this year is no different. Newman opens with a game at Modesto Christian, then comes home to play Novato and El Cerrito — a team ranked by MaxPreps as the best in NCS Division 3 this year, just ahead of Marin Catholic and these Cardinals.

Last year, Cardinal Newman was a couple of touchdowns away from a pretty memorable season.

Its only regular-season loss was a 21-14 setback to Rancho Cotate, in an epic matchup of 8-0 teams. Newman twice drove inside the Cougars’ 30-yard line late in the game, but was stopped on downs both times.

Cardinal Newman’s postseason loss was even more heartbreaking. The Cardinals built a 31-14 lead against Marin Catholic in an NCS Division 4 semifinal game, but squandered it after top player Phil “Scooby” Wright left the game with an injury, and eventually lost 42-37.

Marin Catholic won the section title game a week later.

Cronin had no regrets.

“Last year, I think these players felt like they played at a high level, and they got a lot out of their season,” Cronin said. “It unfolded, and a couple plays maybe went the other way. They accepted that.”

This year, the Cardinals will try to make those couple key plays go their way.

Phil Barber can be reached at Phil.Barber@pressdemocrat.com

CARDINAL NEWMAN CARDINALS

Coach: Paul Cronin (12th year)
2012 record: 11-2 overall, 6-1 NBL (2nd place)
2012 JV record: 6-3-1

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Zach Stoltz, Jr., RB — Gets first crack at being Newman’s featured back in 2013.
Sean Wolfe, Sr., OL — Returning All-NBL second-team pick anchors capable O-line.
Will Andrews, Sr., DE — Quick edge rusher could be Cardinals’ best defensive player.
Dylan Kolman, Sr., S — Coach Paul Cronin calls him “spectacular” at safety.

INSIDE SCOOP

Linebacker Bryce McChinak filled in for injured Scooby Wright as call-up sophomore last year. Now he’s a starter.

GAME NOT TO MISS

Friday, Nov. 1, vs. Rancho Cotate: Grudge match could once again settle NBL race.

ALL-TIME HIGHLIGHT

Cardinals intercepted future NFL QB Jimmy Clausen 3 times but fell to Oaks Christian in overtime of 2006 D3 state championship game.

SCHEDULE

Aug. 30, at Oaks Christian (Modesto), 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 6, Novato, 7 p.m.
Sept. 14, El Cerrito, 7 p.m.
Sept. 27, at Ukiah, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 5, Montgomery, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11, at Santa Rosa, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 18, Maria Carrillo, 7 p.m.
Oct. 25, at Windsor, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 1, Rancho Cotate, 7 p.m.
Nov. 8, Casa Grande, 7 p.m.

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