The Bradenton Herald - - Sports - BY DANIEL PAULLING Her­ald cor­re­spon­dent

Car­di­nal Mooney’s Tray Hall tries to break free of a Clearwater Cal­vary Chris­tian de­fender dur­ing Fri­day night’s Class 3A-Re­gion 3 quar­ter­fi­nal in Sara­sota. The Cougars al­lowed a late field goal and saw their sea­son end with a 34-31 set­back.

Af­ter miss­ing the play­offs last sea­son, Car­di­nal Mooney High started 2018 with eight con­sec­u­tive wins and hopes for an ex­tended post­sea­son run.

But the Cougars’ sea­son ended with three con­sec­u­tive losses, cul­mi­nat­ing in a 34-31 loss Fri­day night in a Class 3A-Re­gion 3 quar­ter­fi­nal against Clearwater Cal­vary Chris­tian.

“We re­ally played a great se­cond half and then they got the ball with 6 min­utes to go and 80 yards to go, and they scored,” Cougars coach Paul Maech­tle said. “That’s been a fa­mil­iar sce­nario through­out the sea­son de­fen­sively, un­for­tu­nately.

“They just kept mak­ing lit­tle gains af­ter gains and plays af­ter plays, and we couldn’t get off the field. We just haven’t been able to get off the field as quickly as we’ve needed to all year.”

The third-seeded Cougars (8-3) were up­set by the sixth-seeded War­riors (6-5), a team they beat 34-22 in the reg­u­lar sea­son and had beaten in four of the pre­vi­ous five games in the se­ries, af­ter War­riors ju­nior Ai­dan Shahri­ari made a 22-yard field goal with 1:18 left.

The Cougars can blame in­juries, es­pe­cially at quar­ter­back, for their late-sea­son down­turn.

They had to piece­meal their quar­ter­back play at the end of the sea­son and started sopho­more de­fen­sive back Con­nor O’Sul­li­van, their fifth­stringer, on Fri­day. He split time with se­nior run­ning back Isaac Green.

The ro­ta­tion was nec­es­sary af­ter the Cougars lost start­ing quar­ter­back Ryan Bolduc and backup Geno Giar­dina to knee in­juries.

They had bet­ter luck in their pre­vi­ous game against the War­riors, who were with­out ju­nior run­ning back Jor­dan Niles en­tirely and sopho­more wide re­ceiver Richard Ilar­raza for part of their game ear­lier this sea­son. Niles had 24 car­ries for 118 yards and Ilar­raza four catches for 111 yards in their re­venge game on Fri­day night.

“We were the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the bad luck this time,” Maech­tle said.

O’Sul­li­van per­formed well in his spot start, com­plet­ing 9 of 13 passes for 152 yards and one touch­down. He was helped by ju­nior run­ning back Tray Hall, who had 23 car­ries for 202 yards and three touch­downs.

Bolduc, Hall and many other key con­trib­u­tors re­turn for next sea­son, giv­ing the Cougars an op­por­tu­nity for an ex­cel­lent 2019. But in­juries per­haps kept them from ad­vanc­ing deep into the play­offs.

Cal­vary Chris­tian ad­vances to play Tampa Berke­ley Prep in next week’s Class 3A-Re­gion 3 semi­fi­nal, a team the Cougars beat 28-17 ear­lier this sea­son.

TIF­FANY TOMPKINS ttomp­kins@braden­

PHO­TOS BY TIF­FANY TOMPKINS ttomp­kins@braden­

Car­di­nal Mooney’s Meko Mays goes air­borne dur­ing Fri­day night’s loss to Clearwater Cal­vary Chris­tian.

Car­di­nal Mooney’s Con­nor O’Sul­li­van throws a pass for a touch­down dur­ing Fri­day night’s home game against Cal­vary Chris­tian.

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