Santa Rosa, Calif. – Host and No. 2 seed Cardinal Newman withstood some explosive plays from third-seeded Tennyson by answering with a fairly stout defense and a potent offense including some big plays of its own.
In the end the Prep2Prep North Coast Section No. 23 ranked Cardinals celebrated an NCS Division 4 Friday night 44-22 semifinal victory over the third-seed and NCS No. 18 Lancers.
Cardinals’ senior quarterback Lucas Knechtle completed his first six passes and ended up 10 of 17 for 157 yards and one touchdown and he rushed for 71 yards and another score.
Standout junior running back Santino Acevedo rushed for 84 yards and two TDs but on the Cardinals first series of the third quarter he injured his left wrist and came out of the game. On the sidelines after coming out he appeared to have a splint on the wrist. After the game head coach Richard Sanchez said the wrist would be x-rayed.
When Acevedo went out Newman was leading 31-14 but even after he left Sanchez had been rotating him with junior Albert Beerbower (14 carries, 48 yards rushing) and then brought Kaize Steverson into the rotation. The sophomore running back finished with seven carries for 47 yards and one touchdown.
The Cardinals got a huge game from Will Lui. The junior kicker made all three field goal attempts and was 5-for-5 on PATs.
“We played pretty well tonight, particularly in the first half where we had some good drives on offense and got a couple of real good stops on defense,” Knechtle said. “The offensive line protected me and I really didn’t get hit, and the defense made some key plays.”
“Personally, there’s always things to work on, and I didn’t like that fumble near the end of the first half,” Knechtle continued. “But I thought I had a pretty good game.”
Cardinal Newman (8-3) wasted no time hitting the scoreboard. On the games second play from scrimmage Knechtle found Zachary Kelly all alone and the junior wide receiver raced 61 yards to give the Cardinals a 7-0 lead.
Tennyson struck right back when junior Taeshaun Lyons took the ensuing kickoff 80 yards to the house and it was tied at 7-apiece.
After a Newman drive stalled at the Tennyson two and punt after a three-and-out by the visitors gave the ball back to the Cardinals at the Lancers 36, Newman went on a seven-play scoring drive that culminated in a 4-yard TD run by Acevedo on the last play of the first quarter to give Newman a 14-7 lead. A key play in the drive was a 25-yard keeper by Knechtle on fourth-and-12 that gave Newman a first down on the Tennyson 13-yard line.
At that point Tennyson (10-1) had only run three plays for eight yards but only trailed by a TD heading to the second quarter.
Tennyson went three-and-out to start the second quarter on only its second possession of the game. After a punt and the first of several major penalties on Tennyson gave Newman the ball on the Lancers 36, Knechtle capped off a five-play drive with an 11-yard TD run to give Newman a 21-7 lead.
After being stymied on its first two possessions by the Newman defense, Tennyson replaced junior quarterback Jordan Hernandez with a Wildcat formation. Senior running back, linebacker and occasional quarterback Salesi Moala, who has an offer from Oregon State, ran twice from the Wildcat for seven and 11 yards, and then after it looked like he was stopped for a loss, Lyons broke two tackles and raced 28-yards from the Wildcat and Tennyson trailed 21-14 after only running nine plays at the midway point of the second quarter.
The hosts answered right back when Acevedo spun to the outside after getting met at the line of scrimmage by Moala and scored from three-yards out to give Newman a 28-14 lead.
Tennyson then went on its longest drive of the game, but after nine plays and 47 yards they gave the ball over on their 13 to Newman on downs.
With less than two minutes left in the half Sanchez was not content with a two touchdown lead. A 31-yard run by Acevedo and a 32-yard scamper by Knechtle got the ball to the Tennyson 22 with 5 seconds left in the half. At that point Sanchez sent out Lui and he drilled it between the upright from 39-yards out with no time on the clock and Newman had a 34-14 halftime lead.
Tennyson got the ball to start the second half but couldn’t get a first down and Lui booted home a 38-yard field goal for the only score of the third quarter and Newman went to the final period with a 34-14 lead.
The visiting Lancers continued to be stymied and when Lui connected on a 28-yard field goal that he made from 33 but had to re-kick after an offside penalty on Tennyson, Newman had a 37-14 lead with 7:20 left and the game was pretty much over.
Tennyson had one big play left and scored on a 76-yard pass on fourth-and-five from Hernandez to Moala, and a 2-point conversion closed out its scoring. On the play Moala looked stopped for a loss, but he broke away from four tacklers and bolted past the remaining defenders
A short kickoff and a final major penalty on Tennyson gave Newman a short field and Knechtle handed off to Steverson four straight plays with the last one a 2-yard TD run that closed out the scoring.
Besides a steady drizzle throughout the first three quarters, a slew of penalties caused the game to go just about three hours. Tennyson was flagged 20 times for 166 yards in penalties and Newman saw the yellow laundry 12 times for 100 penalty yards.
“Yes they did, yes they were,” Sanchez responded when asked if he thought his defense played well and was a key to the win. “We worked all week on defensive calls that would eliminate their top plays.”
“We got to the ball and we didn’t let number 33 (Moala) get his pads vertical,” Sanchez continued. “That was the big thing. It’s hard to bring that guy down but I’m proud of my guys. We kept him running sideways.”
With the victory Cardinal Newman earned a trip to the D4 title game and another match-up with Redwood Empire Catholic school rival Marin Catholic. Top-seeded Marin Catholic was a 34-16 winner on Saturday afternoon over No. 4 seed Tamalpais.
“Every year we play them (Marin Catholic) in NCS it’s always a battle,” Knechtle remarked.
The teams last met in 2019 with Cardinal Newman winning the NCS Division 4 championship, 13-10 en route to the CIF state 3-AA Bowl Game title.