Cardinal Newman 41, Novato 9: Cardinals race to early big lead


As far as non-league tune-up games go, this one had no suspense as Cardinal Newman easily dispatched visiting Novato 41-9 on Friday night in preparation for hosting next Saturday’s blockbuster match-up against East Bay power El Cerrito.

The Hornets (0-2) were overmatched from the get-go, falling behind 24-0 to the Cardinals (2-0) early in the second quarter. Novato had no answers for Cardinal Newman’s passing attack behind quarterback Keaton Dunsford (17-22, 253 yards, 1 TD).

“Cardinal Newman is a team that is clicking on offense right now,” Novato coach Jason Searle said. “They can really throw the ball.

“They have guys that fit really well into the offense.”

The Cardinals complemented their passing attack with ground pounding by Craig Lucey (15 rushes, 74 yards, 1 TD) and Zach Stoltz (18-69, 1 TD). Cardinal Newman’s Kevin Lucey had a big night receiving (eight catches for 156 yards) and returned a kickoff 80 yards.

“I thought we played well tonight,” Dunsford said. “Our defense played well and our offensive line was exceptional. Everyone was focused on their assignments.”

The party got started for the Cardinals with a long sustained opening offensive drive that ended with a 5-yard run by Dunsford.

Leading 7-0, Cardinal Newman added a 35-yard field goal by Trent Klein, a 1-yard scoring run by Stoltz and a 15-yard scoring pass from Dunsford to Dylan Kolman for a 24-0 halftime lead.

“Dunsford was on tonight,” Craig Lucey said.

Novato’s offensive momentum was consistently stunted with turnovers, silly penalties and execution breakdowns. The most glaring backfire came when the Hornets took the opening second half kickoff at their 20-yard line and drove 79 yards before fumbling away the ball inside the Cardinals one-yard line to come up empty.

“We didn’t capitalize on our chances,” Searle said.

Novato, which gained yards behind the passing of quarterback Robbie Cassee (13-21, 190 yards), finally scored midway through the third quarter on a four-yard run by Nathaniel Barkus (11 rushes, 72 yards) to narrow the Cardinals’ lead to 24-7.

“It’s early in the season,” Cardinal Newman coach Paul Cronin said. “We had some things break down defensively.”

Any hopes Novato had of a late comeback were crushed by Kevin Lucey’s timely kickoff return to the Hornets’ eight yard-line. Two plays later Stoltz waltzed in for a three-yard score and a 31-6 lead with 5:40 to play in the third quarter.

The teams swapped field goals and Craig Lucey added a 16-yard scoring run in the final minutes to finalize the score at 41-9.

“We are working on staying focused and getting better every week,” Cronin said without referring to the upcoming looming challenge.

One week and counting and El Cerrito awaits.

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