The term “trap game” comes to mind when considering the matchup between LSWA Class 5A fourth-ranked Catholic High and McKinley Friday night at Olympia Stadium.
On one hand, there’s Catholic High that could be looking forward to a collision of titans next week at third-ranked EA and looking to repeat as Division I state champions.
On the other hand, there’s McKinley that with only two wins and being ruled ineligible for post-season play after LHSAA violations, had nothing to play for except pride and a chance to spoil the Catholic's season.
Coach Gabe Fertitta and the Bears were having none of that on this night. Catholic (6-1, 2-0) soundly defeated McKinley 48-6.
“Our coaching staff and kids do a great job of staying focused on the job at hand,” Fertitta said.
It started quickly for the Bears. Catholic forced an interception on McKinley (2-5, 1-1) quarterback Tyree Cox’s first pass of the night. That set a short field for Catholic High’s offense.
Three plays later, Catholic running back Joshua Parker scampered in for a 7-yard score.
If you blinked, you might have missed McKinley’s first drive. However, that was far from the case for the rest of the first half. McKinley dominated time of possession and total plays in part due to its five conversions on third or fourth down.
Turnovers and penalties plagued McKinley’s long drives. The Panthers committed four penalties for 38 yards and three turnovers in the first half.
“We would have a good drive, and then we fumble. Then we’d have another good drive and fumbled again,” McKinley coach Robert Signator said. “Hats off to Catholic (High), they did what they had to do to win, but I felt like we just shot ourselves in the foot."
Meanwhile, Catholic's offense was clicking on all cylinders. Running back Jake Outlaw busted off a 22-yard touchdown run. Then, quarterback Cameron Dartez followed that up with a 21-yard connection with receiver Edward Francis for a touchdown.
Dartez had an efficient night completing 10 of his 14 passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns.
Catholic led 21-0 at halftime.
“McKinley did a phenomenal job possessing the ball,” Fertitta said. “Our defense has a little bit of a bend-don’t-break feel to it, but that was a little too much bending.”
McKinley entered the second half feeling very much alive despite being down three scores. That wouldn’t last long.
Catholic High scored early and often in the third quarter. Outlaw opened up the flurry of touchdowns for Catholic with a 25-yard run. Dartez followed that up with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Braelen Morgan.
In the fourth quarter, Catholic High defensive back Evan Venable closed out the game with a 49-yard interception for a touchdown. Venable was one of ten players to account for scores for Catholic.
“There’s no one guy on the team,” Fertitta said. “We don’t gameplan for this guy to catch this many passes or that guy to run the ball that many times. It’s just whatever the defense gives us. Whoever happens to be in when their number is called, they know it’s their job to go make a play.”