University High’s quest for perfection quickly turned to domination in the first quarter of play.
The third-ranked Cubs completed the program’s first undefeated regular season since 1988 with a huge opening-quarter performance en route to a runaway 55-28 District 7-2A victory Friday over Redemptorist at Richard F. Gill Stadium at Jeff Boss Field.
“They won the game in the first quarter,” Redemptorist coach Aaron Vice said.
University (10-0, 5-0 in 8-2A) scored 28 first-quarter points, reached 42 by halftime and let off the gas pedal ever so slightly in the second half with a pair of third-quarter touchdowns.
The Cubs, who will host a first -round state playoff game next week, completed the regular season as one of three unbeaten teams in Class 2A.
“We talked about trying to be consistent and that every time we go out there; we think we’re capable and the guys, to their credit, have worked each week that way,” U-High coach Chad Mahaffey said. “Do we have things to correct? Always, but I think our attitude at practice has given them this opportunity. I don’t think there’s been a game this year where we’ve come out flat. I think each and every week, we’ve come out ready to play.”
Freshman running back Nick Brossette paced U-High’s fourth 50-point scoring effort this season with 16 carries for 127 yards and four touchdowns in the first half.
Quarterback Kyle Crifasi, one of 19 seniors playing their final regular-season home game, rushed six times for 105 yards and two TDs, including a 45-yarder for a 48-14 lead in the third quarter. He also threw for 57 yards, including a 25-yard score to Hunter Smithburg in the second quarter.
The Cubs rushed 36 times for 305 yards and had 369 total yards.
“Coach Mahaffey does a fantastic job, and there’s a reason they’re 10-0 and third in the state,” said Vice, whose team will on the road in next week’s playoffs. “I think we’re a little bit better. This has been three big games against good teams this year that we’ve come out slow, and we’ve got to find a way to correct that and we will.”
Redemptorist (4-6, 3-2) came into the game with momentum with three wins in its last four games and an opportunity to share the league title along with U-High and Episcopal.
U-High scored on its first six possessions with a long drive of 56 yards to establish a commanding 42-6 advantage in the span of 15 minutes before taking a 42-14 halftime lead.
Brossette scored on runs of 5, 8, 1, and 6 yards, while Crifasi accounted for the Cubs’ other two touchdowns with a 5-yard run and 25-yard pass to Smithburg.
U-High’s defense helped to contribute to the onslaught by forcing a pair of turnovers with linebacker Hayes Stewart intercepting quarterback Josh Courtney on Redemptorist’s fourth offensive play. That led to Brossette’s opening score.
Defensive lineman Hunter Bankston also recovered a fumble on the first play of the second quarter, and on first down Crifasi spotted Smithburg down the seam. The senior bounced off a defender inside the 10 and completed the 25-yard scoring play to make it 35-0.
Jonathan Peak kicked five extra points and Christian Garon one.
Redemptorist momentarily stopped U-High’s avalanche of points when Courtney connected with Donald Gage for the first of two touchdowns in the half - a 55-yarder in stride behind coverage - with the other coming with 1:06 left before halftime.
Courtney completed 15 of 27 passes for 148 yards with Gage leading the way with seven catches for 92 yards. Running back Deno Mullens led the way with 83 yards on 18 carries and Jestin Kelly scored twice in the fourth quarter.
“It wasn’t easy,” Mahaffey said. “The short fields make it a little easy. They did some good things on offense, but the turnovers or the negative plays here and there put them in some bad spots. They were moving the ball a little bit, but that’s part of the deal: we’ve got to make some big plays on our side.”