San Pasqual's JaJuan Thomas has made big plays for the Eagles as a receiver and kick returner.
Cathedral Catholic vs. San Pasqual
When: Monday, 2 p.m.
Where: Qualcomm Stadium.
TV: Time Warner 825, Cox 4.
Preview: These teams are evenly matched. Top-seeded San Pasqual holds a slight edge in scoring (408-370) and No. 3 Cathedral Catholic has a defensive edge in points allowed (124-156). Both teams bring four-game winning streaks into the finals. The game will probably be decided by punishing ground games with Chris Moliga leading the way for Cathedral Catholic and the tandem of fullback Peter Ricardez and quarterback Sebastian Tengan for San Pasqual. Tengan has a pair of targets in receiver JaJuan Thomas and halfback Grant Huffman. Cathedral may have a slight edge on defense because of its team speed. The Dons tend to run Moliga up the middle and that means running into 6-foot-4, 235-pound linebacker Kyle Hendrickson. When the Eagles send Ricardez up the middle, he’ll have to deal with 6-1, 235-pound linebacker Xavier Ulutu. Another factor is Thomas. The 6-2, 170-pounder has returned three punts and one kickoff for touchdowns this season. The Dons return to the finals with a chip on their shoulder after being ousted from last year’s playoffs when an ineligible player was discovered before the quarterfinals.
Prediction: Cathedral Catholic 24, San Pasqual 21.
Coach: Sean Doyle, 18th year.
Players to watch: Moliga has rushed for 1,621 yards and 19 TDs while QB Clayton Dale is 82 of 165 passing for 1,312 yards, 9 TDs and 7 INTs. Ulutu anchors a defense that has allowed 124 points.
Season highlight: Cathedral scored on the final play of the first half, a 5-yard run by center Matt Fornaca with a fumbled snap, in 20-0 win at Ramona in the semifinals to snap a scoreless tie. The Dons dominated the second half thanks to a pair of Moliga touchdowns and a defense that held Ramona to 10 yards to reach their sixth final in seven seasons.
Quotable: “Offensively, San Pasqual presents problems,” Doyle said. “You have to stop the fullback, like us. But the guy covering the quarterback can’t help out. We have to stay disciplined and each guy do their own job, not someone else’s.”
Championship past: The Dons’ last title was the Division III crown in 2011, the seventh championship under Doyle, whose team won a state bowl game in 2008.
Little-known fact: Doyle, a Dons graduate when the team was called University and located in Linda Vista, has 157 career wins.
Coach: Tony Corley, 6th year.
Players to watch: Tengan triggers an option attack that includes Ricardez while defense is led by Hendrickson. Most dangerous Eagle is Thomas as a receiver and kick returner.
Season highlight: After spending a week as county’s No. 1 team after a 13-10 overtime win at Mission Hills, the Eagles were beaten at home by Rancho Buena Vista 38-36. They’ve outscored four opponents since that loss by a 145-30 margin.
Quotable: “Our senior class is special,” Corley said. “They have been playing together so long and dreamed of this very thing since they were all in Pop Warner. We don’t want to get there, but we want to win. We lost our focus after the Mission Hills win. We don’t want to do that again.”
Championship past: This is the seventh trip to the finals, but the first since 2000. The last Eagles title was in 1997.
Little-known fact: A former Eagles defensive end who had 16 sacks as a senior, Corley is only the fourth head coach in school history.