Catholic High battled turnovers, penalties and a stubborn St. Paul’s defense Friday night, but the Bears found a way to keep pressure on the Wolves in a Division I quarterfinal game at Olympia Field.
With the Bears defense providing some big plays, second-seeded Catholic turned back No. 10 St. Paul’s 28-10.
“It was an odd flow of the game for us tonight,” Catholic coach Gabe Fertitta referencing his team’s starts and stops throughout the game. “When that happens and you’re playing a good football team, you end up in a battle, and that’s what we had.”
Jackson Thomas completed 17 of 20 passes for 223 yards and a pair of first-half touchdowns. His completions went to seven receivers including Jaelon Toaston, who caught three passes for 108 yards and a touchdown.
The win moves Catholic (11-0) into the semifinals where it will face John Curtis (10-1). The Patriots topped Jesuit 34-27.
St. Paul’s (6-6) trailed 14-3 at halftime, but took the third quarter kickoff and drove into Catholic territory. Wolves quarterback Grant Billson, who was 16 of 32 for 213 yards and a TD, was intercepted by Catholic’s Joshua Robertson at the CHS 3. It was one of three interceptions for Billson.
Robertson returned the interception 57 yards and a personal foul penalty put the ball at the SPS 25. Landon O’Connor’s 20-yard run helped set up Josh Parker’s 1-yard TD run for a 21-3 Catholic lead.
In the fourth quarter, St. Paul’s got a 62-yard TD pass from Billson to Brody Reina. Catholic answered with a 10-play 87-yard drive capped by Jackson’s 1-yard sneak.
“Our defense kept us in it, but turnovers and penalties hurt us,” St. Paul’s coach Ken Sears said. “You’ve got to play perfect against a good team like Catholic. It's still a learning process for our guys. We’re a young team and hopefully we take what we learn and move forward.”
The Bears took the opening kickoff and appeared ready to punt from midfield after three plays. Instead, Catholic converted a fourth-and-1 when upback Brian Hibbard took the snap.
Seven plays later, Thomas found Mike Grizzaffi in the left corner of the end zone for the touchdown.
St. Paul’s went scoreless in the first quarter, but got a field goal after Mica’h Crockett recovered Sam Ethridge’s fumble at the CHS 35. Facing fourth-and-5 at the CHS 19, William Grand came on to kick a 36-yard field goal.
Catholic lost another fumble, this one at midfield with five minutes left in the half. The Bears forced a punt, and sped up its offensive tempo to put pressure on the St. Paul’s defense. Two runs and a pass brought the Bears to midfield where Thomas connected with Jaelon Toaston, who was behind two defenders, for a 53-yard touchdown pass.
The Bears drove to the SPS 22 in the final seconds of the half, but Kylan Dupre’s 39-yard field goal try was wide right.