Reset. Start over. Clean slate.
For every high school football program — attic-inhabitants or cellar-dwellers, those traditionally flourishing or habitually floundering, and everyone in between — that’s what today represents.
It signifies the beginning of a new season, relegating the past — good, bad or ugly — to a distant memory. An image buried in the rearview mirror of a vehicle zipping down the highway.
On this day, nearly a hundred new leaves are turned over in the San Diego Section.
A team like Madison, which bulldozed through 13 consecutive opponents en route to an improbable 21-point come-from-behind state bowl win, is on equal footing with any of the squads that managed one win all season.
The fresh start everyone is yearning for commences today at precisely 3:30 p.m.
Perhaps no other program relishes the opportunity to begin anew, purging the pungent aftertaste of last season, more than Cathedral Catholic, the team that was floored by California Interscholastic Federation rules during the postseason.
“The kids talked about it the whole offseason and in the weight room,” said Sean Doyle, in his 18th year as Dons head coach.
Among last season’s favorites in the section Division III playoffs, Cathedral Catholic received a first-round bye and was primed for a quarterfinal match with Serra when the Dons were removed from contention after self-reporting a violation to the office of section Commissioner Jerry Schniepp.
During an internal audit of transfer student documents, Cathedral Catholic officials discovered a clerical error impacting the eligibility of a varsity football player who participated in each regular-season contest.
The player was deemed ineligible and the violation resulted in 10 forfeits (after going 8-2 on the field), automatic disqualification and a premature end to Cathedral Catholic’s pursuit of a sixth consecutive section championship.
“Their hands were handcuffed because of the rules,” Doyle said of the local CIF office. “Fortunately, something good came out of it. If this happens again to any team, and hopefully it doesn’t, CIF has the ability to look at it and say, hey, this obviously isn’t about cheating. It’s just a simple mistake.”
Certainly, it’s in the past now, but the proverbial chip on the players’ shoulders is the size of San Diego County. This season’s Dons are playing for themselves and the seniors who graduated.
“We have to establish a new identity, so to speak,” said junior defensive lineman Kyle Davis.
“We won five straight championships before last season, so that’s what we were known for. That was Cathedral Catholic football. That didn’t happen last season, obviously. So, now we have to put ourselves back on the map. We have to give a new definition to what Cathedral Catholic football is moving forward.”
Their redemption begins tonight against highly touted Jordan of Sandy, Utah, in the Under Armour Brothers in Arms San Diego Classic at Cathedral.
The Beetdiggers, defending division state champions, are ranked No. 25 nationally and No. 1 in Utah by MaxPreps.
Last year, Jordan produced just south of 7,000 total yards and 90 touchdowns while the team’s defense registered 42 sacks and 20 interceptions. The Beetdiggers’ quarterback, Austin Kafentzis, a junior and a Wisconsin commit, is the reigning, two-time state Player of the Year.
“Why not?” Doyle asked. “We don’t schedule games for wins. We schedule games to see if we’re one of the best teams around. Should we win, it will be a great win for the program. If they beat us, then it becomes, why did they beat us, how did they do it, what do we need to do to get to their level as a program?”
Despite replacing the secondary and the quarterback, Cathedral Catholic appears to field a team capable of competing with not only Jordan, but opponents in the Eastern League and those in Division I of the San Diego Section.
Top rushers Chris Moliga and Josh Gizzi, who combined for 600 yards and five touchdowns on 74 carries, possess the necessary tools to anchor Cathedral’s tried-and-true wing-T offense. The front seven is stout and grittier than ever.
With the weight of the program and its most recent alumni on their backs, the Dons look to make a fairly quick return to their glory days and bury last season’s stain in the past.
“This isn’t just about us,” Davis said.
“It’s more than that. We’re playing for our school, our faith, Catholic community, our family and those seniors that didn’t have the opportunity to defend their championship. That’s the extra bit of motivation for us.”