Cathedral clinches third straight title

Cathedral Catholic’s third straight CIF Division III championship didn’t come without some nail-biting. On a wet Friday afternoon at Qualcomm Stadium where Cathedral cheerleaders paired plastic rain slickers with pompoms, the Dons had to work hard to defend their championship to best Point Loma 20-14.

Unlike past years when Cathedral decisively overpowered their division opponents, this game was still up for grabs late in the fourth quarter.

In the first half, the Dons played strong defensively after a rushing touchdown by junior Jonny Martin. The Pointers were able to block the point after attempt but the Dons would respond by keeping them out of the end zone. Senior Eric Sapp blocked a field goal attempt to keep the score 6-0.

In the third quarter, rain started to fall and Point Loma found some momentum on a 60-yard touchdown run by Leslie Rogers to give them the lead. Cathedral would lose the ball on an interception by Jordan Sparkman but got the ball back on a heads-up fumble recovery on the goal line by Dons senior defensive back Josh Jacko.

Point Loma frustrated the Don offense and quarterback Keegan Fitzgerald ran 25 yards for a touchdown to put the Pointers up 14-6.

Cathedral kept their heads cool and in the fourth quarter took advantage of another Point Loma fumble and penalties. The offense found their rhythm with Dons quarterback Max Brewer making a huge 20-yard connection with junior receiver Chance Early which set up Martin to skate into the end zone to make it 14-12.

A Dons two-point conversion failed so the ball went back to Point Loma with seven minutes left. Dons D forced a three and out and it was Early in the end zone again, shaking a tackle and running 62 yards for the score. This time, the Dons two-point conversion worked on a pass to junior Corrie Garcia, putting them up 20-14 with less than four minutes to go.

The Pointers had their chances on two more possessions but a Jacko interception and a Mustafa “Moose” Jalil sack halted their advances.

Jalil is a fan-favorite. The 6-foot-4, 305-pound junior defensive lineman has already committed to San Diego State. Aztecs Coach Brady Hoke watched the game from the sidelines and gave Jalil a playful clap on the head in congratulation after the game.

Last year Cathedral went on to win the state championship but this year they will not get that opportunity.

On Dec. 11, the Dons learned that CIF’s selection committee picked Servite of Anaheim to represent Southern California in the state title game on Dec. 19.

The Dons finished the season with a 12-1 record, with a one-point loss to Lincoln of San Diego on Oct. 16 the only blemish on a nearly perfect season.

“Winning CIF is something we can control,” coach Sean Doyle said. “We can’t control whether we get picked.”

Doyle said the Dons preseason goal was to win the section title, noting that everything after that is “icing on the cake.”

“Through all the adversity and everything this team has gone through its a tremendous accomplishment,” Doyle said. “We attained our biggest goal.”

Gideon Rubin contributed to this report.