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Balance is no act for Cathedral Catholic offense

11/05/2018, 9:55pm PST
By John Maffei

Cathedral Catholic’s Shawn Poma fends off St. Augustine’s Jalil Tucker Friday at Mesa College. photo

Defenses still stack eight, nine, even 10 players in the box, trying to stop Shawn Poma.

“Everyone leans toward shutting down the run,” the Cathedral Catholic High senior tailback said of his team’s ground-oriented wing-T attack.

It really hasn’t worked.

In eight games, Poma has 99 carries for 1,047 yards and 14 touchdowns. He’s averaging 10.6 yards a carry.

“What people need to realize is that he didn’t play against Christian, Lincoln forfeited, and our starters didn’t play the second half against El Camino and Point Loma,” said Cathedral Catholic coach Sean Doyle. “So our stats are a little skewed.”

What defenses are coming to realize is that the No. 2-seeded Dons (9-1, ranked No. 15 in the state) — who host Carlsbad (6-3, No. 33 in the state) on Friday in a San Diego Section Open Division semifinal — can also throw the ball.

Junior quarterback DJ Ralph transferred from El Camino, where all he knew was wide-open, spread offenses. Plus, his father — coach Jerry Ralph — is known for his wide-open passing philosophy.

DJ doesn’t throw often, but when he does it’s effective.

The junior left-hander has completed 42-of-86 passes for 994 yards. He has 13 TDs with only one interception.

“It took me a while to understand all the little subtle parts of the offense,” Ralph said. “I understand it now. I’m a lot more comfortable with it.

“It’s ingrained in me now. It’s natural. I’m comfortable making any throw on any route.

“We have so much success in the run game that we can torch teams with the pass.”

In the last five games — of which he hasn’t played in four quarters — Ralph has thrown for 714 yards and 11 TDs. His only interception was in Cathedral’s first game of the season, a loss to La Costa Canyon.

And he has bombs of 87, 71, 62, 55 and 47 yards — all to Zion Sorani, who has 18 catches for 485 yards and eight TDs.

Because of his 6-foot-3 stature, the fact he’s a left-hander and his long hair, Ralph gets compared to Ronnie Bass, also known as Sunshine, the quarterback in the 2000 movie “Remember the Titans” about the 1971 T.C. Williams team in Virginia.

“I hear it all the time, and I love it,” Ralph said. “I grew up watching that movie.

“Sunshine was good, really good. He was tough. His team won a championship. So I think it’s a compliment when teams call me that.”

Ralph is starting to get the ultimate compliment with recruiters from the likes of Notre Dame, Cal, Stanford, Arizona State, Arizona, Washington State, Illinois and San Diego State buzzing around.

“Absolutely, I want to play in college,” Ralph said. “And sure, I’d like to throw the ball more.

“But the game is about winning, not about stats.

“College coaches can see what they want to see when they watch film. Hopefully, they do their homework and see I’m a leader, always have been.

“Leadership comes with the position, it’s a way of life for quarterbacks.

“Quarterbacks need to lead on the field, in the locker room and in the classroom. I want the team to look up to me in tough spots.”

Because of Poma’s size — 5-8, 195 pounds — college offers have been slow.

Poma burst on the scene as a sophomore in 2016, rushing for 1,338 yards and 19 TDs with 12 catches for 292 yards and a pair of scores.

He had just 340 yards through the season’s first seven games, then had 13 carries for 228 yards and four TDs in a breakout game against Point Loma.

The Dons went 15-0 that season, beat Stockton St. Mary’s in the State Division 1AA title game and finished ranked No. 4 in the state and No. 16 in the nation.

But an injury cost him much of his junior season when college recruiters start bearing down on prospects.

Poma has drawn interest from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Montana, UC Davis and San Diego State among others.

“Shawn is getting some interest, but he doesn’t fit the mold college recruiters are looking for,” Doyle said. “He’ll get something and someone is going to get a great back because Shawn Poma is one tough customer.”

Poma runs a good but not flashy 4.56 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He has a 35-inch vertical jump, bench presses 315 pounds and squats 465.

“I’m not a ground-and-pound back, but I’m not a scat back, either,” Poma said. “I’m not afraid to run off tackle, but I can get outside, too.

“Defenses don’t know what to do with me, and maybe college recruiters. too.

“This team is on the rise. We’ve put our blood and sweat into this. We’ve played our roles, done what has been asked.

“We all think a state title is within the realm of possibility. If we can do that, hopefully people will see what they want to see.”

DONS DUO

DJ Ralph

Yr | Gm | Att | Cmp | Yds | Int | TD

Jr. | 9 | 42 | 86 | 994 | 1 | 13

Shawn Poma

Yr | Gm | Att | Yds | Avg | TD

So. | 15 | 153 | 1,338 | 8.7 | 19

Jr. | 3 | 54 | 389 | 7.2 | 1

Sr. | 8 | 99 | 1,047 | 10.5 | 14

Totals | 26 | 306 | 2774 | 9.1 | 34

john.maffei@sduniontribune.com

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