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Two teams that went to overtime a year ago will meet again in the Boys HS Club NIT, this time in the semis, as Cathedral and Danville both won their quarterfinal matches this weekend.
Cathedral is looking to book their third-straight NIT final, and held off a
tenacious Sierra Foothills team 24-17. Meanwhile Danville of Northern
California hammered United 41-19, thus ending the Utah team's run of six
straight appearances in a national championship final.
"We didn't play our best rugby," cautioned Cathedral Head Coach Scott Peterson. "With the wind and the wet field we needed to play more of a field position and ball possession game. We did that at times, but then would make passes at the wrong times, or make one too many passes at other times."
After a period of back-and-forth, Cathedral took a 7-0 lead, only to see Sierra Foothills make it 7-5 soon thereafter. Cathedral scored once more to put the Indianapolis-based Royal Irish up 12-5 at halftime. Smart ball-possession play into thr wind kept the Royal Irish ahead as they extended their lead to 24-5.
But that was when the Northern California team came back.
"I think we were guilt of trying to sit on our lead," said Peterson. "But at the same time Sierra Foothills is a very good team and they have an excellent runner off the back of the scrum and some other skilled players. So they made it very tough on us."
Sierra Foothills scored twice late to make it 24-17, and could have tied it up.
"They had the ball at the end, so, yes, it was scary," said Peterson.
Meanwhile, Danville powered over United with their big backs and bigger forwards. Vili Helu led the charge for the aptly-named Oaks, with relative newcomer Mario Diaz and Lorenzo Richardson also playing well.
"This speaks to how tough our Northern California league is," said Joe Motta, who is on the Danville coaching staff. "United are a tough team, but we've had a lot of tough games this year. We concentrated on keeping the ball and had about 60 to 70% possession, which was a huge factor."
Danville went through their regular season 7-0 before being upended by Hayward 25-20 in the NorCal final. That speaks highly of Hayward's quality (the young Griffins are not at the NIT), but also of Danville's competition.
Danville was able to rest several players in the second half and that might bode well for them tomorrow.