Reaching the final of San Diego State’s passing tournament seemed far-fetched for Yuma Catholic’s football program.
Big schools from San Diego and Arizona, including Division I powers Chandler and Hamilton, participated in the 48-team, two-day event. Which of Yuma Catholic’s players would continue to compete for a starting nod for the 2014 football season seemed like a more reasonable objective for coach Rhett Stallworth’s Division V team.
But after Saturday’s performance, in which Yuma Catholic pulled off a couple of impressive upsets, including defeating Chandler in the semifinals, Stalworth might have to raise his offseason expectations for his boys. Arizona teams did a fine job of representing the state in San Diego, with three in-state teams reaching the semifinals.
Hamilton, which returns only five starters for the 2014 campaign, continued its impressive offseason by winning San Diego’s State’s tournament.
“We were a little surprised that we reached the championship game considering that we are small school and hadn’t been to any passing tournaments this year,” Stallworth said. “But we have good skilled kids. We played a good game against Chandler. Our big tight end (Matt Pistone) was huge and was hard to cover. Physically, he’s the one guy on our team who matched up well against other players. Our wideout (Donovan Rooks) scored some big touchdowns. We got a stop early against Chandler and got up by two touchdowns and rode it out to beat them by a touchdown.”
Pistone already has offers on the table from a handful of schools, including BYU and Northwestern, and Stallworth said San Diego State was very interested in Rooks after the tournament.
On Saturday, Yuma Catholic defeated Tucson Sabino and Bakersfield Christian to advance to the 16-team tournament bracket final as the No. 15 seed. But it beat No. 2 Yucaipa of California and then a school with an enrollment of about 3,500 students, California West Ranch, to advance to the semifinals.
Yuma Catholic’s Carter Rodriguez scored on a 45-yard pass play from Jagan Cleary on the final play of the game to defeat West Ranch.
“Our returning quarterback, Cleary, came back after a rough first day and was money on the second day,” Stallworth said. “He made some great reads and throws to Carter, our utility guy.”
Playing six games in one day took its toll on Yuma Catholic, which used four of its seven starters on offense and defense.
A couple of key players didn’t play in the final against Hamilton, but Stallworth’s team had already made a couple big statements before reaching the finals.
Stallworth praised the play of Hamilton and Chandler.
“It’s not real football,” Stalworth said. “If we would have lined up against Chandler in a real game, they would have demolished us.”