- Cathedral Catholic won two straight San Diego Section titles and a state championship with one of the area's most prolific offenses.
Now it's the defense that has the Dons on the brink of a third section title.
The Dons, who've taken on a different personality after taking some heavy graduation losses, heavily showcased their defense in a 42-3 trouncing of St. Augustine in a San Diego Section Div. III semifinal on Dec. 4.
Defense has been pivotal for the Dons, who've adjusted to life without record-setting running back Tyler Gaffney (now at Stanford).
Through 12 games, the Dons are averaging 9.5 points allowed, nearly half as many as they did last year when they yielded 17.3 points per game in a 14-game season.
Fittingly, the Dons defense set the tone early in the St. Augustine game with a pair of interception returns for touchdowns that gave them a 14-0 lead before Cathedral Catholic quarterback Max Brewer took his first snap. They held their opponent to 208 yards of total offense, and just 20 rushing yards.
The Dons, who improved to 11-1 with the victory, will count on their defense when they play Point Loma of San Diego (8-3) on Dec. 11 at 1 p.m. at Qualcomm Stadium in a rematch of the 2007 Div. III final. The Dons won that game by a decisive 41-3 margin.
"So many people had written us off before this season saying this isn't the same team as last year," Cathedral Catholic coach Sean Doyle said, noting that in high school football "no team is the same" from one year to the next.
Cathedral Catholic's margin of victory in the St. Augustine game was a surprise, however, considering the Dons barely squeaked by the Saints, 17-14, in an Eastern League game on Nov. 6.
Doyle said the Dons didn't play their typical fundamentally sound football, noting several dropped passes and some missed assignments on both sides of the ball in the previous meeting.
"We didn't play our A game last time and we knew that going into this one," Doyle said. "We knew if we played better we should be able to take care of business and we did."
The Dons took a 7-0 lead less than a minute into the game when Eric Sapp scored on an 11-yard interception return.
Brien Moynihan returned an interception 34 yards on the Saints ensuing possession to give the Dons a 14-0 lead.
Dons running back Johnny Martin scored on runs from the 1 and the 2 to give the Dons a 28-3 lead going into the intermission.
The Dons broke the game open in the second half, when Brewer completed two scoring passes to Chance Early from 10 and 40 yards out to make it 42-3.
Martin led the Dons rushing for 136 yards on 17 carries, and Brewer completed 7 of 11 pass attempts for 125 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Jordan Lance led the Dons defensively with nine tackles and Mustafa Jalil, Tyler Vasquez and A.J. Montes each had five tackles.