Football: Cardinal Newman holds on to beat Rancho Cotate, 42-41

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Rancho Cotate's Cale Tuttle wrestles Cardinal Newman's Kevin Lucey to the ground on Friday, November 1, 2013. (Photo by John Burgess, The Press Democrat)

Rancho Cotate’s Cale Tuttle wrestles Cardinal Newman’s Kevin Lucey to the ground on Friday, November 1, 2013.
(Photo by John Burgess, The Press Democrat)

Falling behind and finding a way to win worked again for Cardinal Newman — with help from a Rancho Cotate gift.

Spotting visiting Rancho Cotate an early three touchdown lead, Cardinal Newman found some fire with five unanswered scores and a determined defense. Then the lead was in jeopardy with a Cardinals turnover leading to a Cougars score. The game set up for overtime, but a high snap on the point after attempt allowed Cardinal Newman to escape with the 42-41 win in North Bay League play.

“We played with a lot of heart,” said Cardinal Newman receiver and return great Kevin Lucey. “But we knew they would keep coming after us. We got lucky.”

In a contest that neither team could put away, Rancho Cotate gamely came back with three scores in the final quarter to match the trio of touchdowns the Cougars scored in the game’s first eight minutes.

“We fought through it pretty good. We’ve just got to keep playing hard all four quarters,” said Rancho Cotate’s leading rusher, Carlos Franco.

While the Cougars look to finish the season strong against Santa Rosa, the Cardinals get league-leading Casa Grande to finish NBL play.

An improved running game should help Cardinal Newman compete with the unbeaten Gauchos.

Finding its stride on offense since the second half of the Cardinals’ lone league loss, Cardinal Newman has piled up yards each of the past five weeks.

Riding the strong arm of Keaton Dunsford much of the way, Cardinal Newman has put up some 300 yards through the air per contest.

Playing calm and confident despite three Rancho Cotate interceptions, Dunsford spread the ball around to six players to keep the Cougars defense from often overplaying top target Kevin Lucey. The speedy receiver still had 11 catches for 108 yards and two scores on inside runs.

Leading the improving Cardinals run game was Craig Lucey. Behind a line that opened big holes, Lucey totaled 167 yards and a touchdown.

“We’ve wanted to improve on running the ball a little better. That’s part of coaching, being patient,” said Cardinal Newman coach Paul Cronin.

Despite being deep in the season, Rancho Cotate remains a young team still trying to play consistently.

Defense has kept Rancho Cotate in contests. When the Cougars stay in tackling lanes they can bottle up good offenses, as Rancho Cotate did for stretches against Cardinal Newman.

A sign of growth against Cardinal Newman was turning the ball over only once. But the Cougars still suffer letdowns when opponents gain momentum.

“There’s no question we’re a young team. Every week you try to become a better football team,” said Rancho Cotate coach Ed Conroy.

Backup running back Franco emerged against Cardinal Newman with 204 yards rushing, more than half coming on his two touchdowns to open the game.

Youth in varsity experience also was served on the Cardinal Newman side.

With no returning starters, the defense is anchored by players working to measure up to last year’s unit. Will Andrews, playing up front and linebacker, led the Cardinals in tackles against Rancho Cotate, including a fumble recovery.

“These last few games we’ve been behind. But we just never give up,” Andrews said. “We stopped the run when we had to. This gives us momentum for Casa Grande.”

You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or mike.coit@pressdemocrat.com.

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