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Prep football: Cardinal Newman roars past Piner in playoffs

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The Cardinal Newman High School football team found all-around success Friday night to easily defeat upstart Piner 49-0 in the North Coast Section Division 4 semifinals in Santa Rosa.

“I think it’s good we got a win, but we need to clean a lot of things up right now,” Cardinal Newman head coach Paul Cronin said. “I think today we played with a lot of emotion, but the focus was not as good as it has been the last couple weeks, so I think we’ve got to get more focused on things and make sure we’re more detailed on offense and defensively.”

Newman (11-1) entered the playoffs as the No. 2 seed in Division 4 and came into the night on a seven-game win-streak — outscoring opponents 297-68 over that span. The Cardinals are slated to play the winner of Saturday’s Marin Catholic-Acalanes semifinal on Saturday, Nov. 30.

The Prospectors (10-2), the No. 5 seed in the playoffs, put together an impressive season while relying on players to play on every snap of offense, defense and special teams.

“My favorite quote of the year this far is, ‘Piner has so many athletes!’ But we line up with 19 people,” Piner head coach Terence Bell said. “I’ve said it all year long: This group is special, and they came out and they worked hard, and I appreciate that. It’s unfortunate the score is the way that it was.”

Two of those players are brothers Adrian and Isaac Torres. Adrian is the feature running back and plays linebacker, and Isaac not only set records at receiver, but also plays cornerback and kicker. Both are also the team’s kick and punt returners.

On Friday night, Newman came out of the gate firing and did not look back as the Cardinals’ offense consistently scored in the first three quarters. But it was their defense that took control of the game to shut out the Prospectors.

The Cardinals opened the game with a 67-yard touchdown pass to Tsion Nunnally to take a 7-0 lead. The two defenses traded blows over the next couple of possessions, until the end of the quarter when Newman finished off a long drive with a reverse handoff to Nunnally, who ran in for the 4-yard score.

The defensive battle picked back up in the second quarter, but midway through Newman’s Shane Moran broke free and took the ball to the house on a 55-yard run, increasing the lead to 21-0.

At the end of the half, quarterback Jackson Pavitt found Nunnally for a 76-yard touchdown, and Newman led 28-0 at halftime.

The Cardinals carried their momentum right into the second-half kickoff, as Santino Acevedo recovered a fumble in the Piner end zone for a touchdown.

The rest of the quarter was all defense as each stifled the opponent’s chances to score, until a fumble by the Prospectors gave Newman the ball in enemy territory and the Cardinals took advantage with a 38-yard touchdown run by Moran to increase the lead to 42-0.

With less than two minutes left in the quarter, a great punt return by Giancarlo Woods put Newman’s offense on the Piner 19-yard line and the Cardinals took advantage, scoring on a 4-yard pass to Justin LaFranchi. Leading 49-0, Newman did not let up on defense and held Piner scoreless the rest of the game.

“I’m going to build this program up the way it needs to be built and I’m going to be better,” Piner’s Bell said. “I work myself to the bone, but I know I can work harder. I always say, ‘Players don’t lose games. They win games, coaches lose games,’ so I know I can work harder and I know I can be better.”

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