University High junior middle linebacker Bryton Constantin decided to move from his normal position to the outside on what turned out to be Catholic High’s final play of the opening quarter.
When Catholic’s quarterback Cameron Dartez dropped back on first-and-10 and attempted to throw a pass short into the flat, Constantin was in the perfect spot for the first interception return of his career for a touchdown.
Constantin’s heroics were just part of a dominant U-High’s defensive effort that included five turnovers and quarterback John Gordan McKernan passed for 232 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-6 victory Friday at Jeff Boss Field.
“For some reason, I switched to the outside on that play,” Constantin said. “I watched film all week and knew they liked the short passes and I knew they were going to throw it to there. I looked at the quarterback and saw the ball and just jumped it.”
Class 3A’s No. 3 University (3-0) parlayed three of Catholic’s miscues into 20 points — 13 of which took place in the first half when the Cubs took a 27-0 lead at halftime.
Catholic (2-1), the state’s seventh-ranked team in Class 5A, had its 13-game regular-season win streak snapped. The Bears played turnover-free football through two games, but Dartez was intercepted twice and the Bears lost three fumbles.
“Let’s be honest, we were never in it,” Catholic coach Gabe Fertitta said. “They dominated all three phases and we were never in the game. Hat’s off to them and their coaching staff. Their players did a fantastic job.”
It was a familiar script for U-High’s defense which has now forced turnovers through three games and limited another opponent to less than 100 rushing yards with Catholic netting 64 yards on 34 carries.
“The defense was tremendous,” U-High coach Chad Mahaffey said. “They (Catholic) do a lot of things and throw a lot at you. We’ve been fortunate to be able to create turnovers each week and that have been turning points in the games. That’s been to huge.”
McKernan completed 17 of 20 passes with touchdowns of 9 yards to Christian Harris in the first quarter and a back-breaking 57-yarder down the middle to Doryan Harris with 48 seconds showing before halftime.
Grant Bonnette (4-19) topped the Cubs in receptions followed by Harris (3-51) and Makiya Tongue (3-36). Running back Michael Hollins (14-49) scored on runs of 3 yards in the second quarter and his 5-yarder with 2:12 to go in the third was the Cubs lone second-half touchdown.
Catholic, which had 51 yards at halftime, avoided a shutout with 9:15 remaining on Beau Griffon’s 1-yard run. Dartez completed 12 of 30 passes for 130 yards and also topped the Bears with 28 yards rushing despite facing a fierce pass rush.
“We were expecting a close game but like always, our defense came ready to play and our offense executed well,” Constantin said. “We’ve got to get past it and get ready for (District 8-3A home opener) West Feliciana next week.”