Posted: 2:21 am Saturday, October 1st, 2011

Notes from Cardinal Newman’s 24-18 win over King’s Academy 

By Jeff Greer

Earlier this week we referred to Cardinal Newman and King’s Academy as a rivalry game. That got fans from both schools chirping.

King’s fans made the obvious (and fair) joke: It’s not a rivalry if one team never wins. Well, we can call it a rivalry now. Newman finally broke through and beat King’s, and it just so happened to set the Crusaders up very well for a playoff spot out of District 7-3A.

CHECK OUT THE PHOTO GALLERY FROM FRIDAY’S GAME

Stopping Brian Grove (5) was priority No. 1 for Cardinal Newman.

Cardinal Newman started fast and hung on to outlast King’s 24-18 in an entertaining cross-town affair on Friday night. The Crusaders did many of the things they talked about doing before the game: Making running back Brian Grove King’s only offensive weapon and feeding the ball to their own playmakers.

“They’ve got some good players,” King’s coach Craig Dobson said of Newman. “They make a few nice cuts and they’re off to the races. They made some plays. They had a great defensive game plan, too.”

Set for a few years. It’s pretty easy to scan the Newman roster and see some encouraging things (or discouraging if you play or coach against Newman). Sha’corey Foster’s a sophomore. So’s Travis Rudolph. Devonte Brown is a junior, and so is Matt Burke. These are kids who can play.

On Friday, Rudolph had the biggest impact early on, accounting for 59 yards on the opening drive, including a 19-yard touchdown pass down the right seam. Quarterback Brett Benes play-actioned and booted out right, looked down field and must’ve thought it was Christmas. Newman’s prized jewel, Rudolph, was all by himself. Benes threw a strike. Rudolph could’ve moonwalked into the end zone.

“We caught them in man-to-man,” Newman coach Steve Walsh. “It was a play we put in on Wednesday. I said, what if we bring him in motion? I told Brett not to throw it to him unless he was wide open.”

Travis Rudolph (All game photos by Post photographer Allen Eyestone)

After Rudolph’s impressive first half, which saw him ring up 95 total yards (although he lost a fumble), Brown did his thing in the second half. King’s pinned Newman back at its own 11-yard line, but on second-and-10, Brown found some space on a tricky-looking delay. Benes faked a handoff to Foster with one hand, paused and then slipped it to Brown, who raced through a few broken tackles and took it 52 yards into King’s territory. That led to a field goal.

On the next Newman drive, with the Crusaders clinging to a 17-11 lead, Brown got another handoff, broke some tackles and took it 34 yards to the house. Two massive plays that directly resulted in 10 points and sealed Newman’s win.

“Devonte’s runs were from a new play we put in this week, too,” Walsh said. “It was some counter action off of our waggle. All things combined, it was a good misdirection play.”

Calling for the ‘Cat. Freshman cornerback Erick Hardnett’s pick-six on the third play of the game did the first trick, scaring King’s into a run-heavy offense that became so predictable, there were chuckles on the Newman sideline when a coach or player would shout “Pass!” when the ball was snapped, thinking they were diagnosing a play.

King’s offense is in serious trouble after four games. The Lions are 1-3 but still a respected opponent among their district rivals. Walsh said as much. But King’s is in danger of losing its offensive power, with a one-dimensional look that allows defenses to spend all their time stopping it.

But the one formation that seemed to produce anything was the wildcat. Yes, it’s a run-oriented look, primarily based on read options and Jet sweeps. But King’s got huge chunks of yardage running Chris Machiela and Zack Lowe from wideout positions and having Grove take snaps. It produced Lowe’s 50-yard run, which set up his 7-yard touchdown run two plays later. (Grove had 132 yards rushing and Lowe had 65 of his own.)

Yet while King’s found success there, the passing game needs work. Dobson said his team had trouble picking up blitzes and making the correct reads on passing plays. The interception to Hardnett was a misread. Jason Ballestero blew through the King’s line for two sacks, and Peter Owers had no problem reaching the quarterback on the last play of the game.

“We missed a lot of blocks tonight,” Dobson said. “They made a bunch of big plays in our backfield. They earned it.”

District dominoes. It’s already a topic in the game report, but the impact of this game on District 7-3A could be huge. With Pahokee having a down year and Benjamin and Pope John Paul II presumably a step below Newman and King’s, getting a step ahead was huge for Newman. King’s has now lost twice in district, with the other loss coming last week against American Heritage. Newman is 2-0, with its other win coming against Pahokee.

Newman gets Wellington this week before playing four consecutive district games: at Pope John Paul II (Oct. 14), vs. Calvary Christian (Oct. 21), vs. American Heritage (Oct. 28) and at Benjamin (Nov. 4). None of those are easy games, though Newman will be favored against Benjamin and Pope John Paul II. Looking at that schedule, the Oct. 21 meeting with Calvary Christian could be the biggest game of the year for Newman.

Dobson

For King’s, this is a big misstep. The Lions still have Calvary Christian, Benjamin, Pahokee and Pope John Paul II on their schedule, so there are a few chances to get some wins back, but they’ll need some help. At this point, they need Newman and Calvary Christian to lose to Heritage, and hope another district team upsets the other contenders.

“Like they said in the Post, this had major playoff implications,” Dobson said. “The team that won this game, especially us because we’ve already played Heritage, would be propelled. Calvary’s very good, too. We really have our backs against the wall.”