NOVATO, Calif. — Morgan Mahalak
didn't need to see it. The combination of groans and cheers from the packed stands at Mead Field in Novato told him all he needed. Andrew Celis
was at it again.
Marin Catholic (Kentfield)
passing combination hooked up three times for touchdowns in the first half, including a remarkable one-handed 49-yard grab by Celis late in the first quarter to key a 35-0 spurt and a 49-14 victory at San Marin (Novato)
on Saturday afternoon.
Mahalak, the 6-foot-4, 202-pound senior headed to Oregon who accounted for 294 yards and five touchdowns, was knocked to the ground near midfield when he let loose with the perfect spiral to Celis on a post pattern.
"I figured he did something remarkable," said Mahalak, who was 13 of 22 for 210 yards and three TDs and rushed 13 times for 84 yards. Celis had eight catches for 147 yards, all in the first half. The Wildcats threw only three times in the second half. "But Andrew is always doing something special. He's a tremendous player and teammate."
The Nevada-bound Celis opened the scoring on a 42-yard middle screen and added a 16-yard TD catch just before halftime. He also booted seven straight extra points and kicked seven kickoffs into the end zone.
"That's probably No. 1," said Celis when asked where the one-handed catch ranked on his favorite list. "The ball kept carrying and I just stuck my hand out there. Morgan stuck it right in there."
The play not only epitomized Marin Catholic's nearly perfect first 22 minutes of play, but also a perfect regular season. The Wildcats (10-0, 7-0) clinched its fifth straight unbeaten Marin County Athletic League title and showed why they are the favorite to represent Northern California for the second straight year in the California State Division III Bowl Game.
Marin Catholic squandered a 21-0 lead and lost 38-35 to Madison (San Diego) in last year's state finals in Carson.
"We don't get reminded about that game very often," Mahalak said. "Once in a while we use it as motivation. But it definitely left a bad taste in our mouth."
The Marin Catholic defense was definitely motivated to stop San Marin quarterback and Arizona State-bound Manny Wilkins
. The bottled him up most of the day.
With big performances from linebackers Anthony Guisti
and Nicholas Gemhard
, and linemen Ricky McCloskey
and Dante Gambo
, the 6-3, 190-pound Wilkins was held to minus-10 yards rushing in 20 attempts, including seven sacks. He came in with more than 700 rushing yards.
Most of those sacks were coverage sacks as Marin Catholic's secondary was superb.
Marin Catholic defensive coordinator Peter Almlie devised an excellent plan to bring pressure from different spots throughout, especially off the edge. The secondary locked down San Marin's receivers most of the day and Wilkins was left scrambling out of trouble.
He got away from initial contact mostly, but he never broke free for a run of longer than nine yards.
"With a guy like (Wilkins) you have to stay in your lanes, be patient and disciplined," Almlie said. "I think our guys did that. Our linebackers and linebackers I think did a really good job."
Said Marin Catholic head coach Mazi Moayed: "Defending a player like (Wilkins) is really difficult. You just can't give him any space. It was a really good defensive team effort. It was fantastic."
Under heavy pressure throughout, Wilkins (11 of 25, 197 yards) did unleash two beautiful touchdown bombs of 42 and 54 yards to
to bring the Mustangs to within 35-14 with 3:50 left in the third quarter.
Coinciding with the two big offensive plays, San Marin's defense played stout during that 10 minutes and sacked Mahalak three times. The Mustangs seemed to have momentum.
But the calm and gifted Mahalak took matters into his own hands – actually feet — and ripped off consecutive runs of 15, 11 and 43 yards — all up the middle — before keeping the ball on a 1-yard TD keeper to start the fourth quarter.
That put Marin Catholic back in control, 42-14. Sam Kilpack
(13 carries, 112 yards) put the finishing touches on this one with his second touchdown run, a 2-yarder with 4:25 to play. His first score was on a 44-yarder up the middle when he wasn't touched.
"I was impressed how we kept our composure," Moayed said. "To San Marin's credit, they battled back. But we stayed grounded and weathered the storm."
San Marin (8-2, 6-1) lost a chance to dethrone the four-time league champs but will still likely be the top seed in the North Coast Section Division IV playoffs, which will be announced Sunday.
"We needed to play our A-plus game to beat a team of the caliber of Marin Catholic and we obviously didn't do that," San Marin first-year head coach Steve Stanfel. "But I was proud of how we came back and battled. … Now we have our second season in front of us."
But thankfully, for San Marin, not Marin Catholic.