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Sacred Heart Cathedral offense regresses in loss to Mitty

Sacred Heart Cathedral quarterback Mykel Patton (8) fires off a pass amidst pressure from Mitty defensive end Dreyton Johnson (85) during SHC's 32-21 loss to the Monarchs in San Francisco, Calif. on Sept. 23, 2022. | Courtesy Daniel Haniger

The offensive woes that plagued the Sacred Heart Cathedral Fightin’ Irish in their first two games returned in Friday night’s West Catholic Athletic League (WCAL) opener.

Sacred Heart Cathedral (2-2, 0-1 WCAL) scored just a single offensive touchdown in a 32-21 loss to the Mitty Monarchs at Kezar Stadium, and that score only came after falling into an 18-point hole.

The SHC running backs totaled 38 yards against a Monarch defense that didn’t allow a rush over 10 yards all game, halting any offensive progress that the Irish had made in their prior game, a 35-7 victory over Burlingame in which they rushed for 334 yards. Friday’s showing harkened back to their first two games, when they amassed just 68 total yards on the ground against Sacred Heart Prep and Palma.

“A lot of bad decisions, a lot of mistakes that gave Mitty the momentum,” head coach Antoine Evans said. “They executed their game plan; we didn’t.”

Despite the inept offensive showing, the Irish still held a 14-7 lead at halftime. RL Miller’s second pick-six of the season, a 33-yard return, put the home side on the board first with 9:07 left in the second quarter. Mitty (4-0, 1-0) answered with a 19-yard Wills Towers touchdown pass to Ben Kim, but Jerry Mixon Jr. ran the ensuing kickoff back for a 97-yard score.

“Shoutout Coach (Raymond) Dryer. We practiced that the whole week,” said Mixon Jr., who also blocked a field goal in the second quarter. “He said the middle would be wide open, so I saw the hole and took it. I thought I was gonna get caught, but I had to turn on a different gear to get into the end zone.”

None of the momentum from Mixon’s touchdown carried into the second half. Towers found an open Danny Scudero in the front corner of the end zone with 2:23 left in the third quarter. Eoghan Daly snuffed out a potential two-point conversion to keep SHC on top, but the lead wouldn’t last long. Justice Toavalu intercepted a deep Mykel Patton pass in double coverage, and Scudero, a Sacramento State commit, broke four tackles on a sweep for a 65-yard touchdown to put the Monarchs up 19-14 as time expired in the third quarter.

Sacred Heart Cathedral cornerback Marcus Kunene (16) watches Mitty wide receiver Danny Scudero (10) catch a touchdown during the third quarter of SHC's 32-21 loss to the Monarchs in San Francisco, Calif. on Sept. 23, 2022. | Courtesy Daniel Haniger

Things were hardly better for the Irish offense in the fourth. Patton’s first pass of the final quarter was intercepted by Diego Aguilar and returned to the 3. After a delay of game penalty, AJ Cenizal scored on an 8-yard run to open up a two-touchdown lead, and a holding penalty on the first play of the ensuing drive torpedoed any Irish hopes of moving the ball. Towers threw his third touchdown of the night with 6:14 left, a 6-yard connection with Kim to extend the lead to 18.

Mitty running back AJ Cenizal (6) dives for a touchdown during the fourth quarter of the Monarchs' 32-21 win over Sacred Heart Cathedral in San Francisco, Calif. on Sept. 23, 2022. | Courtesy Daniel Haniger

Patton, a budding two-sport athlete who started on SHC’s basketball team as a freshman, showed his promise early by completing his first six passes, but couldn’t connect on any of his final seven, including the two interceptions to Aguilar and Toavalu. Junior Aidan McGrath replaced him with 3:38 remaining and threw a 16-yard touchdown to Miller just 48 seconds later.

Evans’ decision to start Patton had fans second-guessing the first-year head coach, especially after McGrath’s strong finish to the game.

“We thought we saw something, but again, you learn as a coach as things go — that’s a tough one,” he said.

In his brief appearance, McGrath completed five of his 10 passes for 77 yards. Marcus Kunene’s onside kick recovery gave McGrath a chance to lead a second drive, and he escaped pressure to connect with a leaping Miller for a 30-yard gain on fourth-and-7, a play that would have gone for a touchdown had Miller not been incorrectly ruled down. The Irish got down to the Mitty 5, but a pass for Mixon on third down carried the Oregon commit out of the end zone and Steven Anaya got a hand on a pass intended for Miller to seal the game.

When asked about quarterback plans for next Saturday’s visit to Valley Christian (1-3, 0-1), Evans was noncommittal.

“We’ll watch film and see what we need,” he said.

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