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They have a quarterback who "commutes" from Tijuana, a coach who has been at the school five years and this year was "handed the keys" to a program steeped in a continuity of quality coaching, excellence on the field and traditional Catholic values in the classroom, a press box 50 feet up a fire ladder (that this correspondent climbed to get rosters) and a feeling that because they are small in numbers and from the South Bay area of San Diego...respect is hard earned.
Marian Catholic of San Diego, with senior quarterback Mario Ledesma and first year coach/AD Matt White, took another giant step in proving to the naysayers and doubters that they deserve to be reckoned with by anyone who suits up against them.
This past Friday evening the Crusaders took on a school with four times their enrollment, a Castle Park (Chula Vista, 8-2) squad that had totally dismantled Div I Torrey Pines earlier this season. In this contest they turned the tables on the visiting Trojans by scoring 23 unanswered points in the second quarter. The result, much to the delight of a 3-4 deep standing room only crowd of over 4,000, was a convincing 29-14 win that sent Marian into the section playoffs as both South Bay League champions...and at 10-0 at this stage of the season for the second year in a row.
After a scoreless first quarter, senior linebacker and wide receiver Mickey Pimentel took over big time on both defense and offense for Marian. The 6-1, 195-pound well-conditioned Pimentel blew past everyone to block a Castle Park punt on the first play of the second quarter. Five plays later, he was on the receiving end of a 7-yard touchdown pass from Ledesma. On the Trojans very next possession, and on successive plays, he sacked quarterback Chase McGuire, and then blocked his second punt of the game out of the end zone for a safety.
Pimentel, who says that Colorado State, ASU and Cal Berkeley have shown interest in him, was a one man wrecking crew, finishing with another sack, a pass knock down and 11 tackles for quite a night's work.
On the offensive side, the Crusaders had mostly good things happen. The line was able to match-up against the bigger Trojans, opening holes for Marco Contreras to gain 131 yards on 16 carries with a 54-yard touchdown run. Contreras also caught four passes, including a 14-yarder for a TD. Hard nosed senior star running back and team leader Eugene Alaniz ran 16 times for 70 yards, but his status is in question after coming out with what White called a sprained knee with 2:24 remaining in the game.
On defense, the section leaders (8.2ppg) pushed around the bigger and faster Trojans, forcing them into mistakes and turnovers during the most critical stages of the game. A clearly disappointed Castle Park coach Paul Van Nostrand offered no excuses for his Trojans, who will head into the section Div. II playoffs with a No. 3 seed and a first week bye...with a potential semi-final match-up against Oceanside looming.
"We put the ball on the ground way too much," Van Nostrand said. "You can't give a good team like this a short field...and that's exactly what we did."
The reward for the victorious Crusaders is a No. 1 seed in Div. III, a first round bye and a game against the Serra at Brawley winner.
"It's all heart...Corazon" (in Spanish), shouted a jubilant Pimentel, who added, "We stay together no matter what."
Sounds like Marian is taking a page from the book about the original crusader...King Richard "the lion-hearted." They'll need all the heart they can muster against a tough Div. III field that includes perennial powerhouses St. Augustine and defending champion Mission Bay...the team that ended Marian's dream season last year in the section championship.