By Sam Adams
Itâs all over but the seeding.
The Wolverinesâ football team clinched a spot in the CIF playoffs with a 19-6 win against the previously undefeated Cathedral squad at Ted Slavin Field last Friday night. The win puts the Wolverines in second place in the Del Rey League with a 2-1 league record, 6-2-1 overall.
The defense has emerged as a powerful force on the team, keeping opponents to a mere 9.7 points per game. Nick Okano â10 tied a school record with four interceptions against Cathedral. Defensive ends Sean Fateh â09 and Conor OâToole â10 have each acquired three sacks in the season.
TeâRhon OâNeal â09 has continued his successful season, accumulating eight touchdowns and 1109 yards in the season, but the passing game has really come into its own since the beginning of league play, with Corey Vann â09 and Jackson Ligouri â10 establishing themselves as the teamâs top receivers.
The Wolverines were served their first loss of the season to nonleague opponent Alemany 17-10 on Oct. 3. Nicky Firestone â11 scored the Wolverinesâ only touchdown with a 90-yard fumble recovery. The score at halftime was 10-0 in favor of the home team, but three third-quarter Alemany turnovers allowed the Wolverines to tie the score after a field goal and Firestoneâs run.
They defeated nonleague Chaminade 28-13 the next week.
To start Del Rey league play, the Wolverines crushed St. Bernard 37-0 in the homecoming game on Oct. 18, with the offense picking up towards the end of the first half, scoring two touchdowns in the final two minutes of the first half to increase their lead to 20 at halftime. Ligouri reeled in the first touchdown after the Wolverines blocked a Viking punt, and OâNeal punched the ball into the end zone on a one-yard run with 46 seconds remaining in the half. Vann was responsible for two more touchdown receptions in the second half.
The defense effectively shut down the Viking offense, which only gained five first downs and accumulated 108 yards. Firestone intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter that enabled Will Oliver â11 at kick a field goal for the final score of the game.
However, the Wolverines fell in their next game at league powerhouse Serra. OâNeal accounted for the Wolverinesâ only points with a one-yard touchdown in the first quarter, but finished with only 19 yards against the stingy Serra defense. Vann reeled in 11 catches for a total of 93 yards.
“We shot ourselves in the foot sometimes,” OâNeal said. “We had our opportunities. We dropped some balls and missed some blocks. We could have made a lot of plays. Weâve got to relax.”
In a break from Del Rey play, the Wolverines defeated Verbum Dei the next week 24-0.
“In the Verbum Dei game, the second half had some of the best football weâve played all year,” Varsity Head Coach Vic Eumont said. “When we play that way, we have a shot to get in the playoffs, which is the ultimate goal.” A goal that was achieved with last Fridayâs victory.
The Wolverines now look ahead to their final regular-season game of the season at Bosco Tech, a Del Rey team on a four-game losing streak.
Former UCLA running back Chris Markey was brought onto the coaching staff midway through the season to help with the teamâs running game. He has played his final season with the Bruins, and joined the staff after not making any NFL team this season. Markey is coaching while training for the NFL for next year and finishing classes at UCLA.
“Markey brings the immediate impact of the players knowing him, and they respect how he played. When he says something they can relate that because they saw him play,” Eumont said of the new hire.
After the win, the Wolverines clinched a spot in the CIF playoffs. They move into second place in the Del Rey League with a 2-1 league record behind the undefeated Serra squad. If Cathedral manages to beat Serra in this Fridayâs regular season closer and the Wolverines can defeat Bosco Tech, which is on a four-game losing streak, the three teams will move into a three-way tie for first place in the league.
The CIF playoffs will begin on Nov. 21.