CHELSEA — Adversity is something that Cathedral has grown accustomed to the past couple of seasons, and Saturday at Chelsea High Stadium against league rival Pope John, the Panthers proved they can handle it.
Cathedral (8-2, 6-0) dug deep and came out on top, beating Pope John, 34-28, in double overtime to clinch its second consecutive Catholic Central (Small) league championship.
Sophomore quarterback Kejonte Hickman, who finished with 119 yards rushing and three touchdowns (two passing), sealed the win with a 10-yard touchdown rush in the second overtime.
“We were able to stick with what we do well, and that’s run the football,’’ said Cathedral coach Duane Sigsbury. “This was just an unbelievable game. There’s not a better high school game you can ask for.’’
The Tigers (5-5, 5-1) held a 14-12 lead late in the fourth quarter on a 1-yard touchdown rush by Joey D’Onofrio. But their defense did not hold up, allowing Cathedral to score the go-ahead TD on a 32-yard pass from from Hickman to Kadeem Edge on third and 13 with a minute left in regulation.
Trailing, 20-14, with three seconds remaining, Mike Sullivan tossed a 31-yard prayer into the end zone and D’Onofrio was there to answer it between four Cathedral defenders, sending the crowd — and the team — into a frenzy.
The Tigers’ coaches and players then mobbed the field in excitement. The celebration prompted a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty call, which was assessed on the conversion attempt, pushing Pope John back and forcing a pass attempt that fell incomplete.
“That was huge,’’ said Pope John coach Brian Vaughan. “Sometimes, especially with football being an emotional game, emotions get the best of us. Guys ran out there thinking it was over.’’
D’Onofrio scored on a 1-yard rush in the first overtime and ran in the 2-point conversion, but Pope John answered when Jermal Brevard-Jackson ran it in from 10 and scored the conversion.
Hickman then scored his winning touchdown, and even with a failed conversion, the Panthers hung on when a fourth-down pass fell incomplete in the end zone for the Tigers.