High School Football Spotlight: Yuma Catholic @ Estrella Foothills

This matchup of Division IV heavyweights would be a classic Pass vs. Run showdown as Yuma Catholic brought the top passer in the state to the table, and Estrella Foothills, the #2 rusher in the state. Yuma Catholic (7-0) would come into this game undefeated, having won their last 24 games in-a-row, putting this remarkable streak on the line with the state’s leading passer, Stetson Stallworth at the helm against the Shamrocks’ most formidable opponent to this point in the year; the also undefeated Estrella Foothills Wolves (6-0). Unlike Yuma Catholic, Estrella Foothills utilizes a completely different style of offense, having only 30 pass attempts for 237 yards all year, compared to Yuma Catholic’s 197 pass attempts for 2,331 yards. But when you have a RB like Joe Logan, who had rushed 96 times for 1,328 yards, at 13.8 yards per carry coming into this game, it’s no wonder why.

Estrella Foothills began the night by winning the toss and electing to defer, giving Yuma Catholic the ball to start the game, and the Shamrocks wouldn’t take long to show their hand. On just the 3rd play from scrimmage, Stetson Stallworth showed off his best-in-state arm with a deep ball complete to his favorite target, (698 receiving yard coming into this game) Brandon Hunter for 37 yards. Now deep in Estralla Foothills territory, Yuma Catholic RB Jaylen Barnes ripped off an impressive misdirection run for about 15 yards, giving the Shamrocks the ball inside the 5. Capitalizing off of this great field position, Yuma Catholic would strike first, as play action was the call, allowing Stetson Stallworth to take it himself, and scramble into the end zone giving his team an early 7-0 lead, just 2:36 into the game.

From this point on, it was clear that Yuma Catholic head coach, Rhett Stallworth (Stetson’s uncle), did not want to kick the ball to Kylan Knox, as the ensuing kickoff was relatively short, giving Estrella Foothills great field position. Unfortunately for the Wolves, they would not be able to take advantage, as the Yuma Catholic defense suffocated Senior QB Jake Ayala on 3rd down, sacking him, forcing the Wolves to go 3 and out, and punt it away on their first possession of the game.

The next time Stetson Stallworth got his hands on the ball, it would be the same play call as when he caught Brandon Hunter downfield for 37 yards–Except this time the play would result in a 75-yard bomb, taken in by Hunter for a touchdown, now giving Yuma Catholic a commanding 13-0 (Blocked PAT) lead after just their 2nd possession of the game.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Shamrocks once again elected to keep the ball away from the return-man Kylan Knox, as this time they attempted an onside kick, which was not successful. With the ball at their own 45 yard line, the Estrella Foothills Wolves once again wasted great field position, and were forced to punt it away. Fortunately for them, on Yuma Catholic’s next drive, the Foothills defense forced them to do something that they had not done once all season–Punt the football.

And as you can guess, Julian Aitken’s first punt of the season was not a good one, as the Wolves once again would start with great field position, this time at the Yuma Catholic 42 yard line. The only difference this time, is that Estrella Foothills head coach, Lamar Early made sure that this great field position would not go to waste. As expected, this drive we saw heavy doses of the run, most notably Joe Logan, who converted several first downs. Slowly but surely, the Wolves eventually churned down the field, all the way to the 1 yard line. At this point, QB Jake Ayala kept it himself, diving into the end zone to get Estrella Foothills on the board, the score now being 13-7.

Now with the momentum of their side, Estrella Foothills made sure to keep it there, forcing Yuma Catholic to go 3 and out again; something that the Shamrocks had not done on consecutive drives all season. So Estrella Foothills would get the ball back and begin marching down the field, only to be bitten once again by Brandon Hunter, this time on defense. Instead of catching deep balls from Stetson Stallworth, Brandon Hunter this time intercepted the deep ball from Jake Ayala, swinging the momentum back over to Yuma Catholic’s side.

This time, rather than throwing it downfield looking for the big play, Yuma Catholic’s trek to the end zone was very methodical. Utilizing their backfield, both Jaylen Barnes and Wyatt Skurki got a lot of work in on this drive, in addition to Stetson Stallworth. Stallworth, however, would get all of the credit as the drive resulted in a 5-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone to the TE, Blake Sandoval. Stallworth was pressured from the snap of the ball, had to scramble right, and then range back over to his left, down to the 20 yard line, as he was waiting for his man to get open, and once Sandoval did, Stallworth once again showed the crowd his biggest advantage as a passer; his ability to bide time, and throw on the run. Coach Stallworth decided to attempt a 2-point conversion, and was unsuccessful, making the score now 19-7.

About Steven Cusumano

Host and co-host of “The Sports Mafia,” Sunday Mornings 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM. Pursuing Bachelor’s Degree in Sports Journalism at Arizona State University. Voice of high school sports on 88.7 and 90.7 fm.