YUMA - The Tempe Prep football team was threatening to score what would have been a meaningless touchdown in the final minute of its game at Yuma Catholic on Friday.
However, the Shamrock defense held its ground once again to preserve a 24-0 shutout in a battle of 2012 Arizona Interscholastic Association Division V semifinalists.
Tempe Prep, which lost 10-7 to Morenci in last year's semifinal, got the ball inside the Shamrock 12-yard line three times - including the final drive with 30 seconds left - but couldn't manage to put any points on the board. The Yuma Catholic defense forced five failed fourth down attempts, two interceptions and a fumble recovery on a botched fourth-down snap.
"The biggest problem was not capitalizing in the red zone," Tempe Prep coach Tom Brittain said. "We moved the ball well and to leave here with a goose egg is pretty demoralizing when we moved the ball like that."
Offensively for the Shamrocks, junior quarterback Jagan Cleary was 23 of 31 for 259 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Cleary connected with eight different receivers, with senior Ricky Hampton catching five passes for 52 yards and a touchdown and junior Donovan Rooks getting four receptions for 58 yards. He also targeted his running backs, connecting with junior Carter Rodriguez four times for 57 yards and Seth McKinney five times for 48 yards.
Cleary hit junior tight end Matt Pistone for an 11-yard touchdown in the first quarter then hit Hampton up the middle for a 17-yard touchdown to cap the Shamrocks' scoring in the fourth.
"I didn't expect them to throw that successfully," Brittain said. "It obviously killed us. I thought we did a good job holding their running game, but they were just so efficient in the passing game."
McKinney also added an 11-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and the Shamrocks' junior kicker Osvaldo Rodriguez nailed a 37-yard field goal just before halftime.
The passing game wasn't as kind to the Knights, with junior quarterback Jesse Brittain going 3 for 17 with 25 yards and two interceptions – with Hampton and Rodriguez each getting one for the Shamrocks. However, junior running back Alex Akiu rushed for 93 yards on 14 carries for Tempe Prep.
In a highly anticipated game to begin the season between two semifinalists a year ago, Stallworth said that the win showed the Shamrocks are in the hunt, as far as around the state is concerned. Brittain said it showed that his young Knights still have a lot of work to do.
But in terms of starting out the 2013 season, the Shamrocks certainly seemed pleased with a shutout.
"We were strong up front and we did our jobs," Shamrocks senior defensive lineman Marco Perricone said. "We beared down when the going got tough down in the red zone. We wanted to get the goose egg. We started it, we're going to finish it."