Teddy McCarty had three sacks on Senior Day, a stellar performance by an instrumental piece for the Lowell Cardinals who looked like he’s played football all his life.
In reality, the 33-15 win over the Galileo Lions was just the eighth competitive football game he’s ever played.
“We give him simple things to do, and he’s a fan, so he gets the concepts,” head coach Danny Chan said of McCarty. “We’re just glad he played.”
Chan can thank assistant coach Al Gamboa for getting McCarty on board. Gamboa, who’s also an assistant for Lowell’s basketball team, encouraged McCarty to put on the pads after watching him play basketball as a junior.
Lowell (3-5, 3-2 Academic Athletic Association) faced a surprisingly stiff test from a Galileo team that hadn’t scored multiple touchdowns in a game or even held a lead all season before Friday afternoon. After the Cardinals raced out to a quick 14-0 lead, Galileo (0-9, 0-5) scored twice in just over five minutes in the second quarter to go ahead 15-14.
Quarterback Nate Chynoweth ran for a 14-yard touchdown, and after Ezekiel White recovered an onside kick, Chynoweth connected with Jeovany Diaz for what turned into a 14-yard catch-and-run. Chynoweth’s pass to Sidney Pratt for the ensuing two-point conversion gave the Lions their first lead of the entire season.
“We’re getting more consistent with people coming around and starting to gel as a unit,” said Chynoweth, who completed 11 of 20 passes for 120 yards and ran 12 times for 37 yards, even with McCarty’s three sacks taking a toll on his rushing numbers. “Lowell’s a very good team, and to show that we can put up a fight, keep the game close and battle back when we’re down two scores gives the guys some belief, and it gives the young guys something to look forward to next year.”
The lead lasted for all of 57 seconds. Angelo Ornelas scrambled for a 24-yard gain on third-and-10, then hit a wide-open Shawn Hill in the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown.
Galileo ran just one play in Cardinals territory in the second half, a pass that Piero Lujan Pedreschi intercepted. Aaron Moses and Stevie Rivas also recorded interceptions, with Moses picking off a wide receiver pass on a trick play in the second quarter.
“We got a little smarter, and we got in our rush lanes,” Chan said of his team’s defensive improvements.
The Cardinals finally pulled away in the fourth quarter, capitalizing on good field position three plays into the final period on Gavin Barry-Smith’s 4-yard touchdown run, his second of the day. Barry-Smith finished with 90 yards on 16 carries.
“He’s just riding the wave of people,” Chan said of his top running back. “On that play, guys think they’re waiting for something, but he has to make it happen, and I think he figured it out today.”
Lowell had deviated from the double wing offense last year, spreading the ball around under quarterback Reese Miller, but returned to the classic power running set after Miller graduated.
Ornelas ran 10 times for 139 yards, alternating with Tomas La Sala under center. La Sala ran five times for 32 yards, scoring a touchdown and draining a 28-yard field goal to take a three-score lead with 5:50 left. Ornelas also completed five of his nine passes attempts for 49 yards, with two of those completions going to McCarty.
La Sala’s 4-yard run got the Cardinals on the board first after Emilio Duran set them up at the Galileo 49 by recovering an onside kick to start the game. Barry-Smith doubled the lead with 54 seconds left in the first quarter from two yards out, then tacked on a 2-point conversion as well.
Diaz and Biruk Samson each caught four passes to lead the Lions. Samson racked up 45 yards, while Diaz went for 37 for a Galileo team that didn’t act like most winless units do at this point in the season.
“This is the best game we’ve played as a team,” head coach Nick Naudain said. “It’s a big morale boost.”
While 0-9 teams often see players quit or let out their frustrations by taking cheap shots at opponents, the Lions stayed in good spirits, taking photos with their friends from Lowell following the defeat.
“It just takes time, getting the program from the ground up,” Naudain said. “Somebody has to lose, but that shouldn’t be the reason you feel bad about yourselves. Just get 1% better every day.”
The Lions conclude their season at 1:30 p.m. next Friday at home against Burton (0-6, 0-5).
“It’s the battle of the beatens,” Naudain joked.
Lowell officially secured a playoff berth on Saturday when Balboa (4-5, 3-2) beat Mission (2-6, 2-3). The Cardinals travel to Balboa at 1:30 on Friday, with the winner finishing in third place and the loser falling to fourth.
Ethan Kassel can be reached at [email protected]