Leading just 8-0 at halftime on Saturday, the Sault Sabercats varsity used a huge defensive play to propel them to victory.
On the first play of the third quarter, defensive back Nick DiPasquale intercepted a pass and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown, sparking the Cats to a 24-0 victory over the Oakville Titans in Oakville.
The win was the third straight for the Sabercats varsity squad, which improved its Ontario Football Conference record to 3-2 entering a bye week.
“I jumped the route,” explained DiPasquale, who has three interceptions on the season. “There was no one in front of me on the way to the end zone. It felt great.”
The Cats player spoke of how the pick-six “was a key play for us. It helped our offence get momentum.”
“That play was huge,” added head coach Matt Premo, whose team is slated to complete the regular season with a July 8 road game against the Nipissing Wild. “We were kind of flat in the first half. But we built off of that play and sustained our lead the rest of the way.”
While DiPasquale’s interception helped to spark the visitors, the Cats overall defensive play proved dominant.
The Sault’s defensive unit forced five turnovers and was credited with 11 quarterback sacks. Over their last three games, the Sabercats have surrendered just 16 points combined, while scoring 96.
“Our defence was outstanding,” said Premo. “We didn’t give Oakville anything.”
“I think our defence is on point,” added defensive end Devin Segin, who finished with four solo tackles, one assisted tackle, three solo sacks and an interception. “We’re playing well together as a team. Our goal is to play the best we can and to shut people out the rest of the way.”
On offence, the coach didn’t think his team was as sharp as it should have been. He spoke of missed assignments and leaving points on the board.
However, Premo said he believes the Sault “has built some momentum and we’re headed in the right direction. This win guarantees us a home playoff game.”
Isaac Belsito caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan Yost while Greg Caruso rushed six yards for another major. Yost also hit both Belsito and Rob Wright with passes resulting in two-point conversions. Oakville conceded a safety to round out the Sault’s scoring.
Notes: Jacob Fecteau paced the defence with seven solo tackles and three assists while Darian Belkosky had five solos, four assists, two solo sacks, one assisted sack and a fumble recovery.
Adrian Torok contributed three solo tackles, three assisted tackles, two solo sacks and one assisted sack. And Geryd Lesage added four solo tackles, one assist and a batted ball.
Zack Tadashore and Joe Rosso were also credited with fumble recoveries.
On offence, Yost completed nine passes in 21 attempts for 112 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also rushed for 89 yards on nine tries. Caruso led his team’s rushing attack with 14 carries for 104 yards. Belsito ran for 54 yards on four attempts.
Belsito also caught four passes for 65 yards while Wright had three grabs for 26. And punter Skylar Premo-Miceli averaged 44 yards on eight punts, among them a 75-yarder.
By Peter Ruicci, Sault Star