SARASOTA — The Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School football team is healthier than it has been.
And it happened.
The Cougars scored two touchdowns in 58 seconds to overcome an early deficit and hand Riverview High a 14-7 loss Tuesday night at the Ram Bowl.
“We needed everyone,” Cardinal Mooney’s coach Jared Clark said.
In the first meeting between the teams, Cardinal Mooney (2-6) helped their Class 3 Suburban-Region 3 chances, while undermining the Rams’ hopes.
Trailing 7-0 late in the third quarter, the Cougars went through the air to drive deep into Riverview territory.
Johnny Antonucci had three straight passes for 25 and 26 yards to Cooper Flerlage sandwiched around a 7-yarder to George Leibold to advance to the Rams 10-yard line. Three points, including a 4-yard backhand left by Ryon White and Pedro Cava’s PAT kick, tied the game at 7-all.
On the third play on the Riverview route that followed, Leibold caught a pass and returned it 30 yards for a score.
The Rams (3-5) had the ball three more times. The first ended with an incomplete pass on fourth down from Cardinal Mooney’s 8-yard line. The Cougars recorded interceptions on the other two with Leibold and Griffin Gisotti, who started at quarterback, clinching the picks.
It was the last game for Riverview. Cardinal Mooney closes the regular season at 7 p.m. Friday at home against Bayshore High at Austin Smithers at John Heath Field.
Cardinal Mooney Takeout
• After suffering a concussion in the September 16 game at Calvary Christian in Clearwater, Antonucci came off the bench to provide a huge spark for the Cougars. He went 9 for 12, including completing all five of his passes in the second half for 107 yards.
• Clark rattled players who contributed to the defence: Teddy Foster, Chris McCorkle, JR Rosenberg, George Leibold, Jack McKinnon, Lorenzo Walls, Blake Rouland, Jacob Brown, Joey Serfert, who hadn’t played it safe all ‘year. “The defense played out of their minds,” Clark said. “That’s how we knew they could play.”
• Fixing the game late in the season with Riverview could pay dividends for the Cougars’ playoff hopes. “We played a devilish program,” Clark said. “We’ve been telling our guys all year, it’s a big schedule. All credit goes to these guys. Everyone told them we were out of the playoffs. Everyone told them we had nothing left, and these guys didn’t listen. They disconnected everyone. They got closer to each other. They bonded with each other and went out and played a heckuva football game. I think that’s a big problem for the playoff image. I feel good (the Cougars’ chances in the playoffs). We will see.”
• The Rams’ mistakes weren’t limited to the three interceptions. They lost a fumble and failed to secure the ball on the second-half kickoff, allowing Cardinal Mooney to gain possession from the 19-yard line at Riverview. “It’s the same thing that has plagued us the last two games: turnovers and penalties,” Riverview coach Josh Smithers said after his club were scored 10 times for 110 yards in losses. ” You can not do this. We know what kind of coach Jared Clark is. I worked with him for most of my career. He does an excellent job. I knew they would be very well prepared. We had chances; we just flipped it over and couldn’t put it together.
• Cardinal Mooney didn’t show the Rams anything they didn’t expect to see. “We knew they were going to try to charge the box against us and stop the race. We knew that,” Smithers said. “It didn’t bother us as much as having a bad down and a long distance. We had to stay second and third and short. It was one of those nights where the ball didn’t bounce off us.
• It was the fourth game in 12 days for the Rams, who went 2-2. They had wins at Charlotte High and Sarasota High with losses to Venice High and the Cougars. “I’m not going to use that as an excuse,” Smithers said. “I asked my players last week what they wanted to do and they wanted to do it. I felt like we had to do it because I wasn’t sure we were going to come in at 3 -5. We had to take the opportunity to do 4-5 because we were outside watching. There was no other choice. It stinks, it went like this. You wish you had time to prepare you a bit better. We just have to wait and see what happens with the rankings.
Dennis Maffezzoli is Associate Sports Editor for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and Chief Reporter for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and HTpreps covering Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties. Support local journalism by subscribing.
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