The Ison family has had its share of highlights at Moreau Catholic. On Friday night against San Marin in the NCS Division IV semifinals, Jaylen ‘Fresh’ Ison added another sparkling chapter, rushing for 396 yards and four touchdowns as the Mariners held off San Marin, 57-46, to advance to the program’s first-ever section title game.
Ison’s older brother, Jullen, ran for over 400 yards in a 2015 quarterfinal win, but his team stalled out in the semifinals, losing by four points to Marin Catholic that year. With this win coming on the bigger stage, even the current University of Northern Colorado running back had to concede the title to his younger sibling.
“I have bragging rights now. (Jullen) actually called me after the game and told me I got him, and that it was legendary. He told me it was better because it helped my team win a big game,” said Fresh Ison. “We all wanted the punt return to count as well, because that was a crazy play.”
The punt return Ison referred to was a zig-zag, tackle-breaking, defender-eluding whirlwind around the field, one that ended with Ison diving into the end zone for a play which would have gone down among the greatest in school history. Instead, a flag behind the run brought it back, though the Mariners still wound up scoring on the ensuing drive.
Moreau Catholic actually trailed early in the fourth quarter, 35-33, in a game which had been back and forth all night long. San Marin quarterback Matt Sargent had just connected with junior Josh Franks for a 21-yard touchdown, but back-to-back short touchdowns runs by Russell Winston gave the Mariners a 49-35 lead.
When San Marin blocked a punt and recovered the ball in the end zone, it cut the lead back to eight points, but Ison broke off a 59-yard jaunt to extend the lead back to two scores.
“I give a ton of credit to San Marin. They have some great players and staff, and we’re looking forward to going there next year,” said Moreau Catholic coach Rob Gatrell, whose team also defeated San Marin 28-21 during the regular season this year. “This was a whole team effort. The line did a great job opening holes, and receivers did a great job getting downfield.”
Though the Mariners pulled away late, San Marin made things interesting for the first 36 minutes. Just before halftime, the Mustangs took a 28-26 lead on a 56-yard connection between Sargent and top target Julian Alcouffe. Sargent finished the night with 237 yards through the air, though Moreau also intercepted him three times.
The San Marin score going into halftime came after an 85-yard kickoff return from Moreau’s Lovelace Rufus, who also had five catches for 105 yards.
Moreau Catholic will face either Del Norte or Fortuna for the Division IV championship. Those teams meet for the third time this season on Saturday night, after splitting a pair of regular season meetings.
Middletown reaches title game again
Top seed Kelseyville scored what could have been the game-tying touchdown with 6:42 left in its Division V semifinal against league rival Middletown on Friday night, but the Mustangs’ defense came up big on the two-point conversion to preserve a 14-12 victory. The win sends Middletown to the section title game for the second straight season, after falling to St. Patrick-St. Vincent in last year’s game.
Kelseyville’s Robert Garcia scored the fourth-quarter touchdown for the Knights, on a three-yard run, but Middletown’s defense was ready for the option play on the ensuing conversion attempt.
“We told our kids they would be going for two every time, so we prepared for it being a factor in a close game, and put more time into our goal-line defense throughout the week,” said Middletown coach Bill Foltmer. “They ran the option to the weak-side, and we were in a different look than before, and had a linebacker scraping to the pitch man right away. We also forced the pitch to happen early, and that helped us get there.”
Middletown took a 14-6 lead at halftime when quarterback RH Hess connected with Guy Boyd for a 22-yard touchdown pass. It was Hess’ second touchdown pass of the night, having hit Nico Barrio for an 18-yard score in the first quarter. Kelseyville also scored in the first quarter, on a short run by Adrian Villalobos, but just like later in the game, the two-point conversion came up short.
In its last two games, Middletown beat a pair of league opponents – Fort Bragg and Kelseyville – which both beat the Mustangs during the regular season.
“We are fairly young up front, and only start one senior on the offensive line,” Foltmer said. “Now we are seeing that growth, having gotten better through the year.”
Middletown now awaits its fate. Salesian and Stellar Prep play in the other semifinal. Salesian has stated it wants to play for the NCS title should it win, but Stellar Prep’s intentions are not fully known, now that Kelseyville lost. Had Kelseyville beaten Middletown, a Stellar Prep victory would have advanced the Thunder straight to the CIF regionals, since they beat Kelseyville in the season opener.
Cardinal Newman blitzes El Cerrito
Junior quarterback Jackson Pavitt ran for 113 yards and a touchdown, while sophomore Shane Moran added 97 yards and three more touchdowns on the ground, as Cardinal Newman dominated its Division III semifinal game with El Cerrito, winning 38-0.
Jake Woods added a 17-yard interception return for a touchdown to finish the scoring, but the game had already been all Cardinals to that point. Pavitt also completed 9-of-12 passes for 121 yards. Dino Kahaulelio had eight tackles, including two for a loss, to lead the defensive effort, while junior Hunter Graniss also registered a pair of stops behind the line.
Cardinal Newman has opted for the coin flip to decide its fate, hoping to advance to the CIF bowl game regionals. The Cardinals will flip against either Eureka or Las Lomas, who are both undefeated and play Saturday night in the other semifinal.