The Cardinal Newman football team knew going in that taking on Liberty would be a major challenge.
The Lions won the Division 1 North Coast Section championship last year.
Going into Friday’s game, both teams were undefeated, and something had to give. Liberty, ranked 18th in the state, proved the bigger, faster, stronger team.
The Lions, of Brentwood, handed the Cardinals, ranked 58th, their first loss of the season, 31-14, in a nonleague game in Santa Rosa.
Liberty’s 6-foot-6 junior quarterback Jay Butterfield threw four touchdown passes, including three to Sione Vaki, for the win. The Lions stay perfect at 5-0 while Newman falls to 3-1.
Butterfield had three scoring passes and threw for 204 yards in the first half alone.
Newman quarterback Jackson Pavitt accounted for both of the Cardinals’ touchdowns. He scored on an 11-yard run in the first quarter and a three-yard score in the second. Matt Nielson made both extra points.
Liberty took a 24-14 lead by halftime on an 18-point second quarter — including on the last play of the first half.
“We had a fumble early in the game, which hurt, and then another fumble in the red zone that they returned for a touchdown,” Newman coach Paul Cronin said.
Still within striking distance with about 8 minutes left in the third quarter, Newman turned the ball over on downs, the Lions taking over on their own 45-yard line.
Liberty ate up the rest of the quarter on its ensuing drive, advancing to Newman’s 5-yard line. Butterfield and Vaki connected on a 5-yard pass to make it 31-14.
Despite the loss, Cronin said his team showed him the determination he was looking for.
“We’ve played monster teams like this before and beat them,” he said. “We always prepare to win but you just know the margin of error is really thin. You judge it on the effort and passion. That’s why I’m so excited about our future.”
Rancho Cotate 35, Pleasant Valley 27
The Cougars remained undefeated on the strength of their running game, scoring all five of their touchdowns on rushing plays.
Tied at 21-21 going into the fourth quarter, Rancho Cotate leaned on the ground game and scored twice to pull out the win.
Rasheed Rankin ran for 123 yards on 22 carries and four touchdowns. Quarterback Jared Stocker added a 1-yard score. Kicker Andrew Alfaro was perfect in his five extra-point attempts.
Up 28-21 with 6:45 left in the game, Rancho coach Gehrig Hotaling began working the clock.
“We ran every play and we took the clock down to under a minute and scored a touchdown,” he said. “That sealed it.”
Hotaling said Friday’s game felt a lot like last week, when the Cougars beat a talented Campolindo, 35-21.
“When the going got tough, we heavily relied on our offensive line and our run game, and they game through for us yet again.”
Maria Carrillo 48, Santa Rosa 22
After a see-saw three quarters, the Pumas scored 21 points in the final 12 minutes to down the visiting Panthers.
Jack Sherman had three touchdown runs, of 10, 10 and 5 yards to lead Carrillo. Tyler Van Arden added two more, one a 7-yard score and the other a 1-yard run.