Football: Newman can’t catch El Cerrito in 35-7 loss

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Cardinal Newman's Kevin Lucey (8) runs past the El Cerrito defense on Saturday in Santa Rosa. (Conner Jay / The Press Democrat)

Cardinal Newman’s Kevin Lucey (8) runs past the El Cerrito defense on Saturday in Santa Rosa. (Conner Jay / The Press Democrat)

Pushing to gain a measure of momentum, Cardinal Newman could not hold back El Cerrito in a decisive third quarter, and the much-anticipated contest slipped away.

The season’s first defeat for Cardinal Newman was not as one-sided as the 35-7 score would indicate. Saturday night’s game was even on the scoreboard at the half, but the Gauchos wore down the Cardinals’ determined defense.

With two weeks until their next game, Cardinal Newman will use the loss as a teaching moment to improve as both players and a team.

“We’ve got to get better. We just have to go back on the field and focus,” said receiver and defensive back Kevin Lucey. “Hopefully we can grow from this.”

One of the Bay Area’s featured prep football games of the week, the contest matched teams that reached the North Coast Section semifinals a year ago.

El Cerrito figured as the favorite, returning a handful of athletic players headed for major college programs. Still, the Gauchos respected Cardinal Newman as one of the region’s top teams.

“Their offense was good. And their defense, I tip my hat off to them. They bend but don’t break,” El Cerrito quarterback Keilan Benjamin said.

Despite a more than two-to-one advantage in first half plays, El Cerrito could not take control of the game.

Following a deep El Cerrito drive that resulted in a missed field goal, Cardinal Newman answered with a first down and then the game’s longest play. Keaton Dunsford threw a strike to Lucey over the middle and the receiver sprinted much of the way for the 68-yard score.

Answering early in the second quarter, El Cerrito went 80 yards in five plays. James Houston’s longest run evened the score with the power back going 23 yards on a pitch.

Each team would have two more drives in the half. An El Cerrito penalty wiped out the go-ahead score on what would have been a highlight-reel touchdown pass to Jalen Harvey.

A three-and-out Cardinal Newman series to open the second half would not bode well for the home team.

On the third play of the next drive, Benjamin connected with Harvey over the middle and he streaked to the end zone. El Cerrito would not look back.

Despite fumbling on the kickoff, Cardinal Newman came up with another big play with the game in the balance when Kasey Mansen made a diving interception in the end zone.

Dunsford and Lucey hooked up on a pair of long third-down pass plays to carry the Cardinals into scoring range. But the Gauchos’ pass defense stiffened.

On the field-goal attempt, Adarius Pickett crashed through the line. After blocking the kick, Pickett scooped up the ball and ran untouched 67 yards for the score.

While more than a quarter remained to be played, Cardinal Newman would not threaten again. The Cardinals did not gain a first down on three more possessions.

“We were in this game,” Lucey said. “We gave it our all and sometimes it doesn’t work out.”

Going into the game, Cardinal Newman was finding its rhythm in nonleague play with many first-year starters. El Cerrito was seeking a higher gear with a skilled and experienced squad.

El Cerrito sought the game to improve its resume for a possible state bowl berth.

“We wanted to spruce up our preseason. And Cardinal Newman is a team we could see in the playoffs,” El Cerrito coach Kenny Kahn said.

Cardinal Newman looked forward to hosting the Gauchos as a measuring stick of where the Cardinals are in Week 3 of the season.

“You can see where you’re at against a team like this that’s so loaded,” Newman coach Paul Cronin said.

 

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