Rams run over short-handed Owls

Clinton Hall - Cate Football

Cate’s Clinton Hall gets position and intercepts a pass intended for Laguna Blanca’s Philip Fauntleroy. Cate’s Ryder Dinning, right, provides double coverage. (John Dvorak/Presidio Sports Photos)

Cate scored a season-high in points on Saturday as the Rams put the finishing touches on an undefeated regular season and Condor League championship with a 70-21 victory over a depleted Laguna Blanca team.

Cate, the No. 2 8-man team in California according to MaxPreps, scored touchdowns on their first four possessions to gain a 28-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Owls, who themselves went undefeated this season through six games, were playing their first contest without the spine of their offense; they were missing quarterback Chandler Aubery, starting tailback Wakelin McNeel and starting center Alex Lindskog because of recent injuries.

Even though the Owls were missing some key players, Cate didn’t want to take any chances.

“I think we did a good job this game of keeping disciplined, keeping a good mind-set and knowing that the game is not over after one touchdown, so we kept up the pressure on both offense and defense and finished strong,” said Rams quarterback Michael Nettesheim.

Cate’s senior signal caller rushed for one touchdown and threw for two more in the first half. Nettesheim led the Rams to a 35-7 halftime lead before resting for much of the third quarter and all of the fourth. He found Oliver Welch for a 39-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive to set the tone.

After the lopsided first quarter, Laguna Blanca was able to slow down the Rams in the second period. Just as Cate was threatening to score its fifth touchdown on five drives, Philip Fauntleroy intercepted a tipped pass in the end zone. The Owls then marched 65 yards, helped by a recovery of a muffed punt by Darwin Miguel, to score on a 19-yard pass from Pierce O’Donnell to Fauntleroy.

With the lead cut to 28-7, Cate responded with a four-play drive engineered by Nettesheim. A 20-yard pass on first down connected with Dean Smith. An incomplete pass was followed by a long pass to Welch who hauled in the 27-yard catch after bobbling it and being tackled at the same time. Nettesheim finished the drive with a 12-yard run to push Cate back up 28 points.

Clinton Hall took a majority of the snaps at quarterback for Cate in the second half and scored two rushing touchdowns and threw for another on a shovel pass to Ryder Dinning.

Nettesheim too deployed the shovel pass to great effect on a 13-yard touchdown play with Isaiah Washington, who finished with three scores.

“That was one we haven’t been running too often lately but we saw the ends playing really wide and thought we might make something of it,” Nettesheim explained.

Pierce O'Donnell scrambles to escape the grasp of Cate's Musa Hakim.

Pierce O’Donnell scrambles to escape the grasp of Cate’s Musa Hakim.

Pierce O’Donnell stepped in to man the quarterback position and had a hand in all three Laguna Blanca touchdowns.

“(Pierce) only had a week of practice and he did as best as he could do and did everything I could ask in terms of leadership qualities,” said Owls head coach Shane Lopes.

Each of the Owls’ senior co-captains who were on the field made big plays. Christian Fowler had a sack on defense and Robert Estrada zig-zagged from sideline to sideline on a long run for a touchdown as time expired in the fourth quarter.

“Our younger guys that don’t usually play, they demonstrated a lot of courage today and they played for the seniors today,” Lopes said. “The courage and effort were there.”

Cate’s biggest lead was 63-7 in the fourth quarter. Two third-quarter interceptions by Smith helped Cate add to its lead.

CIF playoffs await both teams. While the Rams are awarded an automatic berth for winning the Condor League championship, the Owls are almost assured an at-large bid for their 6-2 record and strength of schedule.

Lopes said his three injured players were questionable to return for the postseason.

Playoff pairings will be released on Monday and first-round games will follow on Friday and Saturday, November 6 and 7.