Newman’s Cronin notches career coaching win No. 203
SANTA ROSA, CA – It may go down as the quickest-ever touchdown in CIF North Coast Section playoff history, and it certainly set the tone of the game.
When asked on the sidelines prior to the meeting of the captains at midfield if he would defer if winning the coin toss as he usually does, Cardinal Newman Coach Paul Cronin snapped “No. We want the ball.”
That decision was somewhat of a harbinger of things to come after the Cardinals won the flip and took the ball and returned it to their 33-yard line to begin their opening drive, except it wasn’t really a drive
On the first play of the game senior quarterback Jackson Pavitt connected with Tsion Nunnally on a 67-yard TD reception to give Cardinal Newman (11-1) a 7-0 lead and the rout was on in a 49-0 CIF NCS Division 4 semifinal victory on Friday night over No. 5 seed and cross-town Piner.
The reason we say it could be the quickest TD in NCS playoff history is the game clock showed 11:40 remaining in the first quarter when Nunnally hit pay dirt, but the officials started the game a little before the scheduled 7:00 pm kickoff and Nunnally scored at 6:57 on the clock that really matters in life.
Piner came into the game with huge offensive numbers, but they only could get to the red zone once, and that was when they got to the Newman 17-yard line on their final drive of the game, but from there they lost the ball on downs and Newman took two knees to run out the clock.
Pavitt, a 6-2, 190-pound senior was 11-of-17 for 206 yards and three TDs, including a second long TD to Nunnally of 74-yards that gave Newman a 28-0 halftime lead. Nunnally, a 6-3, 175-pound junior had five receptions for 173 yards and the two TDs, and he also scored on a 5-yard double reverse with all three scores and all his yardage coming in the first half.
Shane Moran got into the act as well on both sides of the ball. The junior running back and free safety had two TD runs of 55 and 38 yards and finished with 119 yards rushing and a sack on defense.
Zack Moran had a 2-yard scoop and score after he recovered a fumble forced by Santino Acevedo on the second half kickoff.
The local paper played the game up and the fans turned out in droves as the almost, 2,000 seats at Newman were packed with additional spectators lining the fence surrounding the recently installed artificial turf field.
Both Pavitt and Cronin were gracious winners.
“One thing our team does well is pride itself on our focus, and that focus is on our own improvement,” Pavitt said. “Sure, we heard they had success in their season but if we play our game and execute well we know we will have success too.”
“They played hard and there were some great athletes on their team, but it was a pretty respectful game on the field,” Pavitt continued. “Not too much talking, not for me at least. I respect their team and I hope they don’t let last night’s game take away from the great season their program had.”
“The paper was all over the game so it created a lot of hype and excitement but a little nervousness too, Newman Coach Paul Cronin remarked. “We played a little too excited at times but it gave our guys confidence playing in a big game with a lot of hype.”
When Cronin meant a little too excited he was referring to the only thing his boys did wrong in the game, and that was get more false start penalties than he would have liked.
Prior to the game first year Piner coach Terrence Bell exhibited the same attitude he has all season, but in the end the facts of the game could not be debated.
“We came out here to play and we’re not going to bow down to any reputations or titles,” Bell said.
His Prospectors certainly didn’t bow down and played with heart but they were no match for Cardinal Newman.
Senior Prospectors quarterback Yonaton Isaac came into the game with an NCS leading 51 TD passes. He already had tied T.J. Campbell of St. Bernard’s-Eureka (2017) for the top spot in the NCS on the Cal-Hi Sports Record Book list for Single Season TD Passes (Regular) with 48 prior to three TDs against Tamalpais last week. Isaac passed for 163 yards but he was sacked four times, hurried eight more times, and was unable to add to his season TD total in his final high school game.
Cardinal Newman now advances to the NCS Division 4 title game next weekend against the winner of the Saturday afternoon contest where No. 2 seed Marin Catholic hosts No. 3 seed Acalanes-Lafayette in Kentfield.
On a side note, and after the arithmetic was done, and as quiet as its been kept since Cronin is anything but a self promoter, the Friday night victory was No. 203 in the coaching career of Cronin. He’s now 175-42-2 at Newman after going 28-24 in five years ironically at Piner where he starred and was a 1991 graduate.