Goal-line stand helps Cascia knock off Heritage Hall
BY KELLY HINES World Sports Writer
Saturday, December 03, 2011
12/03/11 at 5:27 AM
STILLWATER - Another inch or two and Barry J. Sanders would have been in the end zone for the tying touchdown.
But Cascia Hall's formidable Blue Swarm defense came up with its play of the year, a goal-line stand in the final minute to preserve a gritty 14-7 victory against defending champion Oklahoma City Heritage Hall in a Class 3A semifinal Friday night at Pioneer Stadium.
"As a coach you ask your team to just lay it out on the line, and that's exactly what my team did tonight," Commandos coach Joe Medina said. "Gosh, it's a game of inches, and it came down to the last inch."
Cascia (14-0) advances to face Anadarko in next week's final at Boone Pickens Stadium while trying to win a third state title in four seasons after falling in last year's quarterfinals.
"We're going to go back to the championship game and compete hard and try to get our trophy back," Medina said.
The Commandos knew they would have a tall task in stopping a Chargers offense that entered averaging 52.7 points a game behind superstars Sterling Shepard, a receiver committed to Oklahoma, and Sanders, a running back living up to his famous father's name.
"This is the most prepared I've ever seen our team in four years," said Hunter Hart, a fullback and defensive lineman. "We knew them inside and out.
"That's what we've got to do to get a state championship."
Sanders was held to 100 yards on 18 carries and produced only 30 yards in the second half in his final game for the Chargers (12-1).
Shepard had eight catches for 54 yards and a touchdown. He also dropped three passes, including what easily would have been another score.
"We're not scared of anyone," defensive back Tate Swab said. "It doesn't matter who it is, we're going to hit them in the mouths and make a point."
The defenses traded punches in the first quarter, each forcing a three-and-out on the first possessions. The Chargers could have taken an early 3-0 lead, but Swab blocked a 20-yard field-goal attempt by Cale Courtney.
"When I blocked the field goal, it just set the tone of 'We're here to play, we're not scared,' " he said.
Hart provided the longest play of the game when he broke away on fourth-and-1 for a 40-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
Heritage Hall answered with its most productive drive, capped by three straight catches by Shepard, who scored on a 14-yard fade in the back corner of the end zone. The game was tied at 7 at halftime.
After a fumbled punt late in the third quarter, the Chargers had excellent field position. But on the next play, Swab intercepted a deep Quinn Shanbour pass.
With six minutes left, Hart plowed his way to the end zone for his second touchdown, a 3-yard run set up by a 22-yard pass from Thomas Rouse to Erik Testa.
That allowed plenty of time for the Chargers to come up with an answer. They marched down the field behind four straight completions and were assisted by a roughing-the-passer penalty that put them inside the 10-yard line.
But the Commandos contained Sanders once and Shanbour twice, setting up fourth down at the 1. Everyone in the stadium – fewer than 1,000 people – knew who was getting the ball, and Sanders was stuffed.
"More than anything else, we sell our kids on defense," Medina said. "That's what we build our program on, for moments like this, for games like this."
Cascia Hall 14, OKC Heritage Hall 7
OKC Heritage Hall 0 7 0 0 — 7
Cascia Hall 0 7 0 7 — 14
CH: Hart 40 run (Testa kick)
HH: Shepard 14 pass from Shanbour (Courtney kick)
CH: Hart 3 run (Testa kick)
Original Print Headline: Defense shines for Cascia
Kelly Hines 918-581-8452
Cascia Hall's Bryce Carter celebrates his team's win over Heritage Hall during their Class 3A semifinals at Stillwater High School on Friday. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World
Heritage Hall's Chedon Shockley (right) is upended by Cascia Hall's Erik Testa during their Class 3A state semifinal Friday night at Stillwater High School. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World
Heritage Hall's Barry J. Sanders weaves through the Cascia Hall defense. Sanders was held to 100 yards on 18 carries. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World
Cascia Hall's Hunter Hart runs downfield against Heritage Hall. Hart scored both of the Commandos' touchdowns. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World