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Dennis, Suffocating Defense Sends Raiders To State

By STAFF, 11/06/17, 3:00PM CST


If defense does in fact win championships then the Cretin-Derham Hall Raiders certainly have a chance to bring home the hardware this season.

Field conditions at the University of St. Thomas may not have been ideal following the first snowfall of the year, but senior linebacker Charlie Dennis and the Raiders defense were up to the challenge. Dennis totaled 12 tackles including a pair of sacks and added a blocked punt to lead Cretin-Derham Hall past Shakopee 12-0 on Friday night.

“I had to come out strong,” Dennis said. “People said we were going home, people were doubting us, so we had to prove a point today.”

The Raiders defense set the tone for the game from the moment the clock began ticking down in the first quarter. Following three unsuccessful rushing attempts, the Sabers elected to run a fake punt — but Dennis and the CDH defense were not fooled. Dennis broke through protection and delivered a huge sack to set CDH up with excellent field position.

Danny Callahan and the Raiders offense struggled early in the game, however, as the CDH signal-caller was intercepted by Sabers defensive back Brien Lett shortly after to shift momentum back to Shakopee. Nevertheless, the junior quarterback responded well to adversity during the second half, putting CDH on the board with a one-yard score with roughly four minutes remaining during the third quarter.

The sophomore running back tandem of Tony Underwood and Zion Guerra also turned it on during the second half of play. Underwood, who finished the night with 127 rushing yards, continuously wore down the Sabers defense with efficient carries, and Guerra put the nail in the coffin late in the third quarter with a game-breaking 24-yard touchdown run in which he eluded multiple Shakopee defenders before ultimately cashing in for six points.

“Those two sophomore running backs, man, they’ve been getting better all year,” Raiders head coach Brooks Bollinger said. “They’re not sophomores anymore. They are both — especially for being younger — tough, physical and discipline runners.

“Zion these past couple of weeks has just been coming into his own, I think.  His comfort with the reads, the physicality upon contact … it’s just a lot of fun.”

Twelve points on offense was more than enough for the CDH defense. In addition to Dennis, junior cornerback Rajiv Redd silenced Shakopee receivers all night long, totaling an outstanding seven pass breakups, and senior linebacker Jackson Crawford chipped in a key sack late during the fourth quarter.

“It’s really just about the coaching,” Redd said. They prepared us all week for this with good film sessions. We fly around [on defense], we’re fast, we’re athletic; I don’t think there is a team that is better than us on defense.”

Bollinger echoed his defensive back’s sentiment, specifically noting the leadership of captains Matthew Cunningham and James Williams.

“They have been a special group all year,” he said of the CDH defense. “A lot of them have played a ton of football for this school. At the banquet I named James Williams and Matt Cunningham our two initial captains, and they have just been unbelievable. They have truly led this group.”

CDH, which now stands at 7-2 on the season and has not lost since September 22 against Blaine, will face Edina in the state quarterfinals. The Hornets held on to defeat the Centennial Cougars 7-0 on Friday evening.

“I believe if we play our best football, we have a chance against anyone in the state,” Bollinger said. “There are some great teams, and Edina is certainly one of them, but that’s just the time of year it is.

“Everyone is playing somebody good, and we’re glad to have the chance to roll the dice and take our shot.”

Scoring Summary

1st quarter

No points scored

2nd quarter

No points scored

3rd quarter

Danny Callahan 1-Yard Rushing Touchdown; Extra Point Attempt Failed, 3:56
Zion Guerra 24-Yard Rushing Touchdown; 2-Point Conversion Attempt Failed, 0:29

4th quarter

No points scored