The Stefano Show
By GEOFF STOUTE
Central Catholic’s Stefano Guarisco’s reaction wasn’t the one that many likely would expect.
When informed about a half-hour after the Eagles’ 41-24 win against Ascension Episcopal that unofficially, he had accumulated nearly 400 all-purpose yards, the sophomore showed no excitement.
He simply took it all in stride, like the many strides he took along the way to a combined 409 yards rushing, receiving, and on a punt and kick return each for touchdowns during the Eagles’ second-straight victory.
Sure, he answered questions like yes, he was somewhat surprised on how well he did and yes, it was the best game for him in terms of seeing the field, but mostly, he deflected the praise to his teammates.
“I got to give credit to the offensive linemen that block for me every play, special teams that block all the time,” Guarisco said. “They work hard for me, and I’m just returning the favor.”
While Guarisco didn’t say much about himself, Ascension Episcopal first-year coach and former UL-Lafayette standout quarterback Mike Desormeaux had good things to say about the Eagles’ standout.
“(No.) 5, my God, he just, he was all over the place, and I don’t know if we tackled him once tonight,” Desormeaux said. “It’s a credit to him, and it’s a little bit on us. We got to tackle a lot better. We take pride in being physical, and we weren’t overly physical tonight.”
Guarisco, who in addition to an 85-yard kickoff return for a score to begin the game and a 75-yard punt return in the second quarter, led the Eagles’ ground game with 22 carries for 246 yards and a touchdown.
Fellow running back Eriq Blanchard rushed 14 times for 82 yards and a touchdown to lead the Eagles’ 336-yard performance on the ground.
“Stefano and Eriq and the line, offensively, we did a good job,” Central Catholic coach David Fuhrer said. “Nick did a good job managing the game. (He) made (a) key play with Tyler. We did a lot of good stuff. I’m very happy with the kids.”
The Eagles would need all of Guarisco’s firepower as well as its defense as Ascension Episcopal showed marked improvement in the district series between the two schools that often times was not even close.
Instead, the Blue Gators were still in the contest until Blanchard’s 2-yard touchdown run gave the Eagles the final 17-point cushion, and the Eagles defense stopped Ascension Episcopal on fourth down with about three minutes left allowing Central Catholic to run out the clock.
Later in the first quarter after Guarisco’s kickoff return, the Blue Gators responded when quarterback Trevor Doucet connected with Alec Stolzenthaler for a 33-yard touchdown pass. Doucet’s two-point pass to Joey Greco gave Ascension Episcopal an 8-7 lead with 5:54 remaining in the opening quarter.
The Blue Gators would add to their lead in the second quarter with a 26-yard field goal by Josh Hebert for an 11-7 advantage with 9:35 remaining in the half.
However, Central Catholic reeled off the next 20 points, via a 20-yard pass from Nick Case to Tyler Hoffpauir with 6:41 left in the second quarter, Guarisco’s 75-yard punt return with 5:04 remaining in the half and Garret LeBlanc’s one-yard run on third and goal from the Ascension Episcopal 1 yard line with 1:21 left in the third quarter for a 27-11 Central Catholic lead.
While the Eagles seemed to get their offense going, Ascension Episcopal sputtered for a while as they were stopped on three consecutive drives — two late in the first half and their opening drive of the third quarter — in Central Catholic territory.
“That was a big drive there,” Fuhrer said of the Blue Gators’ opening possession of the third quarter. “They score there, they’re in the ballgame.”
Fuhrer said he thought his defense, which surrendered 330 yards of offense (150 rushing and 180 passing) to the Blue Gators’ spread attack, played well.
While the Eagles stopped the Blue Gators on those three key drives, the visitors didn’t go down easy as following LeBlanc’s touchdown, the Blue Gators responded with Doucet’s 41-yard dash on a quarterback draw to cut the Central Catholic lead to 27-17 with 11:42 left in the game.
Guarisco responded on the Eagles’ next drive with a 63-yard run to give the Eagles a 34-17 advantage about two minutes later before Doucet matched the Central Catholic standout’s score with a 13-yard touchdown run for a score after he couldn’t find an open receiver.
Doucet finished the contest with eight carries for 50 yards and two touchdowns, while he completed 14 of 36 passes for 172 yards, a touchdown and one interception.
“The thing about Trevor is all year he’s been an athlete first and tonight he started turning into a little bit of a quarterback,” Desormeaux said. “It’s good to see.”
Logan Daigle led the Ascension Episcopal receivers with three catches for 55 yards, while Stolzenthaler caught three passes for 47 yards and a touchdown.
Case completed seven of 11 passes for 59 yards and a touchdown and interception apiece for Central Catholic.
Hoffpauir led the Eagles’ receivers with five receptions for 52 yards and a touchdown.
Central Catholic will return to action Thursday when they travel to face Lafayette Christian in another District 7-1A contest.