Coming into Friday night’s game against Woodlawn at Memorial Stadium, the winless Catholic High School Bears knew that they were, if nothing else, on the same level as every other District 5-5A team at 0-0 in district play.
One 43-34 win over the Panthers later, and the Bears (1-5, 1-0) are back on track.
“Before the game tonight I went down the list of teams in our district and said none of them have won a game in district yet,” Catholic coach Dale Weiner said.
The Bears broke through via a powerful ground game that saw them rush for 241 yards on 51 carries. Sophomore quarterback Nick Coomes, who was inserted as a starter this week, led the way with 104 yards and three touchdowns.
Woodlawn got a trio of stellar performances from Kendall Barnes (354 yards, four touchdowns passing), Jamaal Lofton (166 yards, three TDs receiving), and Emmanuel Stewart (102 yards rushing).
“It was the first district game and everybody had a clean slate,” Woodlawn coach Don Jones said. “We had a lot of penalties, were undisciplined, and turned the ball over. When that happens, you’re not going to win.”
Woodlawn (2-4, 0-1) led 14-0 early following a pair of touchdowns from Barnes to Lofton, the first a 4-yard fade and the second a 76-yard pass.
Catholic got seven back when Murphy Bell rushed up the middle from 4-yards out.
Thanks to a pair of unsportsmanlike penalties levied at Woodlawn after a scuffle in the end zone, the Bears kicked off from Woodlawn’s 30-yard line, and recovered an onside kick at the 10.
A false-start penalty backed Catholic up to the 13-yard line, but all that meant was Khalil Thomas had a few extra yards to cover on his touchdown sprint around the left end.
A lost fumble by the Panthers on their next drive gave the ball back to the Bears, and Catholic capitalized with another seven points, this time on a 1-yard keeper by Coomes.
Woodlawn’s big-play offense tied the game again when Barnes found Brent Torrance on a short slant on third down that Torrance took 63 yards for a touchdown.
Coomes scored his second rushing TD on a 6-yard keeper that saw him escape a number of Woodlawn tacklers.
Barnes answered Coomes’ score on WHS’ next drive, but Jonathan Barnes missed the PAT to make it 28-27.
Catholic stretched its lead on a 9-yard run by Thomas.
Woodlawn cut it to two with just less than six minutes remaining when Barnes connected with Lofton for a 51-yard score, but Coomes iced the game on a fourth-and-1 keeper that somehow went through the entire Panthers defense for a 48- yard touchdown.
After four straight Barnes incompletions, the Bears were able to run out the clock and seal the win.