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Dons fullback carries a weighty load

11/30/2013, 7:50pm PST
By Terry Monahan, Special to the U-T

Position is key to Cathedral Catholic's perennially top-ranked running game.

Cathedral Catholic fullback Chris Moliga has rushed 251 times for 1,621 yards and 19 touchdowns.

During the 18 football seasons under coach Sean Doyle, one thing has remained constant at Cathedral Catholic High.

The Dons have run the football and done it better than almost every other team in the San Diego Section.

Year after year, Doyle has a fullback ready to work over opposing defenses.

Chris Moliga, a senior, is the latest in a string of devastating fullbacks to wear the Dons’ colors.

Moliga has rushed 251 times for 1,621 yards and 19 touchdowns, which may pale in comparison to some of his predecessors, but the 5-foot-11, 200-pounder has been the mainstay of an offense that has scored 370 points in posting a 10-2 record and a berth in Monday’s section Division I championship game against San Pasqual at Qualcomm Stadium.

“I’ve had a pretty good staff of coaches along the way,” Doyle said. “We don’t have a lab where we go and build running backs every couple of years.

“I’d have to say we’ve been very fortunate. We’ve had talented kids come here and we’ve recognized talented kids who were playing other positions that we changed to running back.”

In his third year on varsity, Moliga, a halfback until this season, has carried a mantle that goes back to 1996 very nicely.

John Roberts was the first fullback in ’96 and he responded with 2,190 rushing yards and 19 TDs in his only season with the Dons.

Justin Green took over in 1997 and in three years compiled 5,397 career rushing yards, among the county’s best when he graduated.

Rico Tucker took over for his sophomore and junior years (2001-02) before quitting the sport to concentrate on basketball as a senior.

Demetrius Sumler was next. In four seasons (2002-05), Sumler became the county’s all-time leading rusher with 5,650 yards before Tyler Gaffney replaced him.

Gaffney not only led the Dons to a state bowl game title in 2008, but he rushed for 5,547 yards in his career (2006-08) and was chosen as the state’s Player of the Year after scoring 48 TDs before heading off to Stanford.

John Martin was on two Division III section title teams (2009-10) with 1,775 yards and 19 TDs as a senior, JJ Stavola had 1,032 yards in 2011 and Tony Johnson (2012) was headed toward the same kind of career before a knee injury slowed him down.

“I tried not to think about the pressure of being a running back here,” Moliga said. “Just focus on myself and what I can contribute.”

Moliga arrived at Cathedral as a safety in Pop Warner. He was switched to halfback as a sophomore and pushed up to the varsity because the Dons needed another runner.

But Doyle knew all along that Moliga would eventually be the back who gets “20-30 carries every night.”

Moliga called Monday’s finals “just another game.” But it’s not that simple.

Cathedral was ousted from the 2012 playoffs without playing a game when an ineligible player was discovered.

Moliga is thrilled for the shot to fulfill a promise to last year’s seniors.

“We dedicated this season to them,” he said. “We’ve played all year with that chip on our shoulder and a bunch of seniors were at the semis (a 20-0 win over Ramona).

“They pointed out we’re not quite finished yet. This has been a special journey playing for others.”

Don’t look now, but Doyle already knows who his next fullback is going to be, and he’s already at Cathedral.


When: Monday.

Where: Qualcomm Stadium.

Tickets: $13; students and seniors $9.

TV: Time Warner 825, Cox 4.

Open Division: Mission Hills vs. Oceanside, 5 p.m.

Division I: Cathedral Catholic vs. San Pasqual, 2 p.m.

Division II: Mission Bay vs. St. Augustine, 11 a.m.

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