Cardinal Newman 24, King's Academy 18: Crusaders hang on for district victory
Friday, September 30, 2011
by Jeff Greer
Cardinal Newman coach Steve Walsh needed no reminder of how important his team's first big district game of the season was.
In a district loaded with playoff teams and traditional powers, No. 10 Newman's 24-18 win over King's Academy could go a long way toward deciding the District 7-3A playoff picture in November.
King's Academy is now 0-2 in district contests.
"It's a good confidence-builder for our team," Walsh said. "We still have some tough competition coming up in front of us. Our goal is to make the playoffs, though, and putting King's behind two games on us is a big advantage."
The win was a major turnabout from the teams' meeting last year, which ended with a King's 21-0 win.
In that game, King's running back Brian Grove ran for three touchdowns and 149 yards, and Newman never got going on offense.
This time, Grove still got 132 yards, but Newman bottled him up enough to get an early lead, and the Crusaders never looked back.
On the third play of the game, Newman (4-0) received a quick boost from freshman Erick Hardnett's 29-yard interception return for a touchdown, which pushed some doubt into King's passing game.
From that point on, King's (1-3) stuck mostly to the run, which was effective at times but never broke through. The Lions ran the ball 39 times and attempted just seven passes.
That imbalance did them in.
Twice in the final eight minutes, King's had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead, but only passed twice on those possessions and ultimately just ran out of time.
"I knew they were going to come after Grove," King's coach Craig Dobson said. "We had a good passing plan, but we didn't pick up blitzes and made a few bad reads, and that took the wind out of our sails early on."
Newman's playmakers showed up.
Travis Rudolph, Newman's standout sophomore on offense, caught a 25-yard strike from Brett Benes in the first quarter to put Newman up 14-0. Rudolph finished with 64 yards rushing and 63 yards receiving.
Then, junior Devonte Brown took over in the second half with two huge runs of his own. The first, a 52-yard scamper, led to a field goal by Steven Holmes.
His second, a 34-yard dash up the middle, was eventually the game-sealing touchdown.
"I just wanted to get the touchdown," Brown said of his critical score. "Everything else just faded away."