Catholic High set the tone early as it turned the tables on St. Thomas More with a 20-0 win at Olympia Stadium.

The Bears (3-1) broke a string of 12 scoreless quarters by St. Thomas More’s defense with an opening touchdown drive. They went on to keep class 4A’s top-ranked and defending state champion Cougars (3-1) off balance the rest of the game.

The Catholic defense stepped up its game in the second half, producing three turnovers including a 46-yard fumble return by Patrick Mensah for the clinching score.

“This win is a testament to the assistant coaches we have, and it's a testament to the caliber of kids we have,” Catholic coach Gabe Fertitta said of the win. “I couldn’t be more proud of them. Not because of the score, but because of the way they responded all week after the loss (34-6 last week to University High).”

Catholic’s Cameron Dartez completed 15 of 26 passes for 164 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown strike to Austin Hood on the game’s opening possession. Parker Smith fueled the Bears ground game with 78 yards on 13 carries, and gave Catholic a 13-0 halftime lead with an 11-yard scoring run in the second quarter.

Catholic finished with 322 yards of offense against a St. Thomas More defense that, coming in, had allowed an average of 149 yards per game and no points.

Chris Primeaux rushed for 60 yards to pace the Cougars. Quarterbacks Caleb Holstein and Peyton Landry combined to complete 17 of 32 passes for 184 yards with an interception.

“Catholic High definitely outexecuted us tonight. They deserved to win this game,” said St. Thomas More coach Jim Hightower, who was trying to pick up his 400th career win. “They were played a very motivated game and they executed very well.”

For Catholic, that execution started before the opening kickoff. The Bears won the coin toss, and then elected to go on offense against the Cougars defense, which already had three shutouts this season.

“Their defense has been lights out all year,” Fertitta said. “We were hopeful we could get the ball, go down and get that part over with, and then just play the game. Luckily, we converted some fourth downs and got the score.”

It was a determined drive for Catholic, which faced fourth downs at midfield and then at the STM 38.

Beau Griffon picked up the first one with a five-yard run on fourth-and-two. Three plays later, when the Bears needed 5 yards, Dartez hit Vernon Langley for 6 yards and the first.

The clincher was a pass from Dartez to Hood in the left corner of the end zone. Hood was double-covered, but hauled in a perfect pass.

St. Thomas More moved into Catholic territory three times in the half, but only got as close as the CHS 22. That possession ended with less than a minute remaining when CHS’ Jonathan Mestayer threw William Cryer for a three-yard loss on fourth down.

In the second half, the Cougars were hurt by penalties and turnovers. Midway through the third quarter, Holstein’s 38-yard completion to the CHS 9 was nullified by offensive pass interference as Catholic kept St. Thomas More out of the red zone for the entire game.