The way Yuma Catholic's offense has clicked in postseason it wasn't a good idea to give the Shamrocks a couple short fields as they were warming up their potent passing game late in the opening quarter.
So after taking a 7-0 lead on a drive it generated without the defense's help with 3:31 left in the quarter, Yuma Catholic's defense came up with two fumble recoveries in consecutive possessions in Round Valley territory. That led to two more TDs in the next three minutes and Yuma Catholic was on its way to a 63-35 victory over the Elks in the Division V state championship game at North Canyon High School.
It's the second championship for Yuma Catholic in football with the first coming in 2011. Round Valley, trying for its first title since 1985, finished the year 12-2.
Yuma Catholic quarterback Jagan Cleary dissected Round Valley's defense to the tune of 473 yards (26-of-33) and seven touchdowns. The TD passes went to five different receivers. Three were to tight end Mat Pistone and one each to Carter Rodriguez, Donovan Rooks, Ricky Hampton and Seth McKinney.
Cleary, a junior, had ample time to throw most of the game allowing him to pick from an array of receivers. The Shamrocks averaged 58 points a game in their four postseason games and 404 yards an outing. With the defense stopping Round Valley's vaunted ground game early and collecting the two fumbles early, it made for a long day for the Elks. They couldn't recover from a 28-0 defict with 10 mniutes left in the first half, although they never gave up trying until the final horn.
"With our passing game it's a matter of execution and focus," Yuma Catholic coach Rhett Stallworth said. "We've done that in the playoffs."
Yuma Catholic got a 2-yard TD run from versatile Carter Rodriguez to go up 7-0. Rooks caught a21-yard TD pass after Yuma Catholic's first fumble recovery at the Round Valley 21. After the second, the third TD went to Pistone from 42 yards out, his first of three hookups with Cleary. Rodriguez tallied on an 86-yard catch and run score that pushed the margin to 28-0.
"Round Valley's a physical team and it was up to us to man up and protect the quarterback to have success," Stallworth said.
Grabbing a four-touchdown lead wasn't condusive to Round Valley plahing from behind since the Elks offense is mostly about the run. They pulled within 35-14 with 46 seconds left before halftime when Ethan Workman intercepted a pass and returned it 65 yards for a TD.
Yuma Catholic snatched that momentum away by scoring with 20 seconds left in the half on Pistone's third TD reception. It was set up b y a 34-yad completion to Rodriguez. Rodriguez finished with139 yards rushing and 153 receiving.
"Coach made some great calls," Cleary said. "With some play action we had their linebackers jumping up. We kept them off-balance. We have so many guys I can throw to. Our line gave me good time, and our defense did a great job early getting us the ball."
Round Valley's standout in the game was Workman. Workman rushed for 114 yards on 15 carries, breaking the 100-yard mark on a 49-yard run in the final seconds. He scored three touchdowns, two on runs and the other on his potential momentum-breaking pick return.