Olympian running back Rey Osuna is swarmed by a group of Cathedral Catholic defenders.
Just minutes into its Division I semifinals game, it became quite apparent that the question for host Cathedral Catholic was not how the Dons would beat Olympian but by how much.
This much: Cathedral 43, Olympian 7.
The victory Thursday advances No. 3 seed Cathedral (9-2) to Wednesday night’s semifinal game at No. 2 Ramona. The Dons, who won five straight Division III titles from 2007-11, are one victory away from returning to the finals for the sixth time in seven years.
“We had a big talk as a team that we needed to come out firing,” said Cathedral quarterback Clayton Dale. “We just had to do what we had to do and we did it today.”
Dale was pretty matter-of-fact in his explanation. and no wonder. the game was every bit as lopsided as the score indicated. So much for the Eagles avenging a 41-0 loss when the teams met two years ago at Qualcomm Stadium for the Division III title.
Olympian’s first six possessions ended with three punts and three interceptions (two by Nick Gamez and one by Christopher Colon). The Eagles had six turnovers by game’s end.
“We haven’t done that all year,” said Olympian coach Paul Van Nostrand, “You can’t do that against Cathedral. They’re just too good. ... We had some chances, didn’t do it, and it quickly turned the other way.”
Cathedral’s Drew Cowell returned the first punt 71 yards for a touchdown. Dale threw two of his first three passes for touchdowns, tight end Daniel Plum hauling in 8- and 42-yard TD throws. Cathedral running back Chris Moliga squirted out of a scrum on fourth-and-2, darting 45 yards for another score that provided a 29-0 halftime lead.
Gamez returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown one minute into the third quarter to make it 36-0. At that point, Gamez had more receptions (three) than Olympian receivers (two).
“I was just in the right place at the right time,” said Gamez.
Olympian averted the shutout with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Anthony Hughes to Greg Goff.
Van Nostrand congratulated his players during a postgame gathering at midfield, saying that “8-4 is nothing to be ashamed of. You guys pulled off a pretty good season.”
For Cathedral, the gauge for good is located within Qualcomm Stadium. After a few handshakes and hugs, the Dons prepared to take another step toward another championship.
“Our defense steps up in the playoffs,” said Cathedral coach Sean Doyle, reflecting on the evening. “We just have to maintain that.”