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SANTA ROSA — The Cardinal Newman High football team doesn’t know if it’ll play another game this year, but for one more night this football season, the Cardinals showed why they want to get a shot at a state championship instead of a section title.

The Cardinals dominated their North Coast Section Division 3 semifinal game against El Cerrito on Friday, taking a 17-0 lead at the half and pulling away for even more in the third to force a running clock in the final quarter for a 38-0 victory.

Newman (11-1) dominated on both sides of the ball, pushing the Gauchos (9-4) back on defense and even further back on offense, with El Cerrito never getting close to scoring range.

“We felt that we can run the ball,” Cardinals coach Paul Cronin said. “Going into the game, our plan was to run the football as much as we could. Our offensive line matched up really well with their defensive line, and we were a little bit quicker. We loved our two running backs and our quarterback’s run game.”

Jackson Pavitt and Shane Moran combined to rush for more than 200 yards, most of it coming in the first half when Newman raced out to a 17-0 lead. After the break, Moran added his final touchdown with around five minutes left in the third quarter to make it a 31-0 game before Jake Woods returned an interception 16 yards to the end zone for the final count.

Moran finished with 126 rushing yards and Pavitt added 86.

“He’s one of the best sophomores I ever had,” said Cronin of Moran. “He’s just an unbelievable player. It’s cool that we get to coach him for two more years and he’s a special back.”

Moran said Newman’s grass field — which they practice on, too — made a difference, with El Cerrito appearing to have trouble gaining a footing at times.

“It was slippery, but we’re used to it,” he said. “They weren’t and it showed.”

Woods, a senior, said the team was ready to jump on an aggressive Gauchos’ squad.

“Our goal was to come out early and to get on them,” he said. “Once we got on them, we knew they would quit, and we just tried to keep doing our thing, and that happened.”

Newman’s postseason fate will now be left up to a coin flip at the NCS office in San Ramon at 8:30 a.m. Sunday after delays due to unhealthy air from Butte County’s Camp fire delayed the section tournament by two weeks.

Either Newman or the other Division 3 finalist — a team to be decided in Saturday’s other semifinal game — will get the chance to advance to the state NorCal tournament by winning the coin flip.

According to Cronin, the team’s seniors made the decision to take a chance at making a state appearance instead of opting for a section title game.

“They voted on it, they talked about it and they’ve been to a lot of NCS games. They want a chance to play in a regional game like they did in 2016,” he said.

If they lose the coin flip and the chance to go to the state NorCal tournament, their season is over.

“Life goes on. You feel bad, but there’s nothing you can really do about it … It’s nothing we can control, so you can’t really focus on it,” he said.

The winner of Saturday’s Eureka-Las Lomas matchup will square off with Newman in Sunday’s coin flip.

NCS Commissioner Gil Lemmon said the winner gets to choose whether a section title game is played or if it wants to advance to the state tournament. The Cardinals picked the state tournament, but it’s unclear what the Las Lomas-Eureka winner will do if the flip goes their way.

“Any division where a team advances to CIF Nor-Cals will be a bracket not completed, vacated with no awards,” Lemmon saidvia text message on Friday night. “Only in those divisions where schools choose to complete the NCS championships and forego the CIF NorCals will an NCS champion be crowned.”

As of late Friday, Lemmon wasn’t aware if any other NCS divisions would be using a coin flip to decide who moves on.

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