HEALDSBURG, CA – The 60-mile bus ride from Marin Catholic-Kentfield to Rec Park in Healdsburg where Cardinal Newman-Santa Rosa players, coaches and fans waited patiently in the 100-degree heat for the Wildcats to arrive, took two and a half hours.
Once there, the Marin Catholic players had to dress and warm up, and the Cardinal Newman players that had taken refuge in the shade had to warm up a second time, so the 4:00 p.m. Friday evening scrimmage was an hour late in starting, but once it got going we were able to observe two teams expected to meet in the North Coast Section realigned Division 4 title game.
Big Russ Stirling was along for the ride so we could use the commuter lane, but after the long delay and with the dinner hour on us, we decided to watch the first string of both teams go through their first set of offensive and defensive sets of plays. That meant 15 plays for Marin Catholic and 17 for Cardinal Newman.
Neither team showed much of their offense and both teams held out players on both offense and defense, including Marin Catholic not playing USC-committed 6-4, 310-pound Jamar Sekona, the top rated defensive lineman in California from the class of 2020, and the most highly recruited player on the defensive line in the history of the Redwood Empire portion of the NCS.
Both quarterbacks started a little slow, and each warmed up and looked good throwing the ball, but neither team scored a touchdown in the air or on the ground in the 32 combined plays observed.
Newman quarterback Jackson Pavitt, a 6-2, 193-pound senior, was only 3-for-7, and was sacked three times (without being tackled) by an aggressive Marin Catholic defensive line, but all three of his completions were down field, including a 31-yarder to 5-10, 195-pound junior running back Shane Moran, who played hardnosed football in the scrimmage. Another nice pass went for 18 yards to 6-2, 175-pound Tsion Nunnally, who looks like he will be a target for Pavitt often this season. The third reception was by senior Justin Lafranchi for 13 yards.
“I’m feeling good right now,” Pavitt said after the first 17 plays.
The running game didn’t do a lot against the Marin Catholic D-line despite the absence of Sekona. If you include the sacks and a bad snap, the nine times Pavitt didn’t throw the ball resulted in negative yardage. Moran carried three tacklers on one run for a 6-yard gain, Pavitt carried a couple of tacklers for a 6-yard gain on a keeper, and although he lost yardage on one of his three runs, senior running back Clay Woo did break loose for an 8-yard run.
Cardinal Newman was the host so they get top billing, and as was stated previously, both teams had players out, and we didn’t stay for a few more plays by the first string of each team, but all in all Marin Catholic, who was on offense first, looked a little further along, particularly in the trenches.
Sekona didn’t play but Giovanni Ghilotti did, and Newman couldn’t block him. The 6-5, 220-pound senior defensive end had all three of the Marin Catholic sacks. That’s where the official blows the whistle prior to impending contact.
The Wildcats 6-1, 177-pound sophomore quarterback Michael Ingrassia came out throwing long, and although his first pass was incomplete it was a perfect spiral that went 50 yards in the air. He finished 4-for-7 and showed escape ability as well.
The Wildcats line protected quarterback Michael Ingrassia with a huge pocket, and on two occasions with no one open the 6-1, 177-pouns sophomre got loose, and in a real game could have run for big gains, but just like the sack rule, once the quarterback prances a bit the play is whistled dead prior to imminent contact. He did take a keeper for 18 yards on a very nice run where he could be tackled.
Last year’s quarterback and current wide receiver and defensive back Gaven Cooke, had Ingrassia’s first completion and pounded out 10 yards. The 6-1, 180-pound senior also broke up a pass on defense. Matteo Perez, a 5-9, 180-pound junior, was snuffed on his first run but had two where he gained seven and six yards, and he had a pass reception for a 6-yard gain.
Senior wide receivers Spencer Lauer and Harry Mauterer each had one reception, Lauer for 18 yards and Mauterer had a catch that went for 15 yards.
“It was just a scrimmage and we had a lot of guys out, and neither team really showed much of what they do,” Cardinal Newman Coach Paul Cronin said.
“For us we got out of there healthy,” remarked Marin Catholic Coach Mazi Moayed. “It’s a scrimmage and we didn’t prep for it. We went out there blindly and just wanted to see how we’d compete.”
“Some things yes we played hard and played well on defense,” continued Moayed. “It was a great scrimmage for both of us. We got to go up against another great program and get the juices flowing for the season opener.”
For Marin Catholic its season opener is at home on Saturday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. with El Cerrito.
Cardinal Newman opens on Thursday against Fortuna back Rec Park in Healdsburg since the new turf field on their Santa Rosa campus won’t be ready until sometime in October.