February 12, 2013 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - Real Salt Lake
SANDY, Utah (Wednesday, February 13, 2013) - Rio Tinto Stadium is proud to announce the pairings for the third annual edition of the Xfinity High School Football Challenge, a gridiron doubleheader featuring Sandy-based teams playing host to high-caliber, nationally-ranked, out-of-state competition. The 2013 Xfinity High School Football Challenge will be played the weekend of Saturday, September 14, featuring defending state 5A champion Jordan High School and acclaimed junior QB Austin Kafentzis squaring off against perennial national power Bergen Catholic (Oradell, N.J.), which boasts highly-rated senior TE/DE Garrett Dickerson. Another up-and-coming New Jersey program, Allentown High School, will visit the Wasatch Front to face Utah's Alta High School, quarterfinalists a year ago.
"Last year's event featured probably the best high school football game in the state with St. John Bosco defeating Jordan in the last seconds, so we are really looking forward to a great set of games" said Rio Tinto Stadium President Bill Manning. "Last year our football games were ranked as the 3rd & 4th top national games of the week, and it's always exciting to see how Utah's best football teams match up with out-of-state programs. We also thank our sponsors Comcast & Sandy City for their support in hosting the games at Rio Tinto Stadium."
Tickets for the Xfinity High School Football Challenge will go on sale to the public in late Summer, 2013, with advance and day-of-event pricing to be announced via www.RioTintoStadium.com. Both contests will be televised locally over Comcast cable systems, while football fans across Utah can listen to both games live on ESPN 700 and ESPN700Sports.com.
"This year's Xfinity High School Football Challenge will be the best yet, bringing nationally recognized high school teams to complete with two of the best teams in Utah," according to Comcast Regional Vice President Kyle McSlarrow. "In addition to providing excellent Xfinity products and services, Comcast is committed to giving back to the communities we serve in many ways. Our sponsorship of the Xfinity High School Football Challenge is another example of that commitment."
The New Jersey-based "Crusaders" from Bergen Catholic finished with an 8-4 mark en route to runner-up status in the state's non-public Group 4 classification, dropping those four games by only a combined 17 points. Expectations are high for the 2013 season, as the program which produced Houston Texans LB Brian Cushing announced the current group's presence with authority by defeating long-time nemesis - and 2012 Xfinity participant - Don Bosco Prep last Fall. Bergen Catholic still seeks a title to go along with the 43-18 record in the last five seasons, four of which have resulted in runner-up finishes.
"Bergen Catholic is honored to be included in the 2013 Xfinity Football Challenge," said Jack McGovern, the school's Director of Athletics. "We would like to thank all of the sponsors for affording us this amazing opportunity to help promote the Bergen Catholic football program across the country. We are excited to face national powerhouse Jordan High School, and for the chance to play at beautiful Rio Tinto Stadium. At B.C., we always strive to play the best competition throughout the country, and we certainly have found it with the 2013 Xfinity Football Challenge."
A season ago, the 9-2 Allentown High football team that put up great passing numbers all season and earned a school-record nine wins thanks to a great passing attack, got burned by a hot passer, dropping the Central Jersey Group 3 semifinal to defending titlist Neptune (NJ) in a 28-21 heartbreaker. Fourth-year head coach Jay Graber has heightened expectations for the once-struggling program in the prep football hotbeds of New Jersey, posting a 21-10 mark and a pair of eye-opening and respect-earning showings in the 2011 and 2012 playoffs.
"Allentown High School would first like to thank everyone who has made this opportunity possible," said Jay Graber, Head Football Coach for Allentown. "Our program is very excited to be invited to play in the 3rd Annual Xfinity High School Football Challenge. It will be a great experience for our student-athletes, and we are eager to compete against a tough Alta football team."
Aside from being an entertaining event for spectators, the Xfinity High School Football Challenge offers students from the four schools the opportunity to showcase their talents in front of scouts from across the collegiate football landscape. Rio Tinto Stadium's convenient location in the Salt Lake valley will allow easy access for scouts from some of the NCAA's elite conferences to attend the event, including the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision's PAC-12, Mountain West Conference (MWC) and Western Athletic Conference (WAC).
Already serving as Utah's home for all things soccer, Rio Tinto Stadium has earned the reputation as one of the country's finest multi-purpose facilities, with the building having hosted multiple football and rugby contests, snocross and monster truck races and several high-profile concerts since opening its doors to the public in October 2008. The building is no stranger to fans of football, having served as the home of the now defunct National Junior College Athletic Association's annual Zions Bank Top of Mountains Bowl Classic since 2008. In addition, Rio Tinto Stadium hosted its first-ever high school football game in August 2010, featuring the local rivalry match-up between Hillcrest and Murray High Schools.
"The Xfinity Football Challenge is the ideal opportunity for the community to come together in celebration of the passion, dedication and hard work of our talented local athletes," said Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan. "The high level of competition provides lively entertainment for the fans and the experience of a lifetime for the players and their families."
In September, 2012, the second-annual Xfinity High School Football Challenge featured a full weekend of events, as St. John Bosco (Bellflower, CA) and Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, NJ) arrived in Sandy for practices and a banquet featuring all four squads at the Stadium prior to the doubleheader. In the opening game, California's No. 5 team, the St. John Bosco Braves scored the decisive game-winning touchdown with less than a minute left, as QB Josh Rosen found TE Nick Lehman for a 28-yard score on fourth down to pull even with Sandy's Jordan Beetdiggers in the scintillating opener. Despite leads of 7-0, 14-7, 20-14 and 27-20, St. John Bosco could never put the home team away, as the Beetdiggers defense forced three fumbles and the Kafentzis-led offense strung together several impressive drives, knotting the game at 14-14 at halftime and eventually leading 33-27 prior to the Braves' final-minute 4th-down TD conversion.
Kafentzis - who entered the game with 1,491 yards and 19 touchdowns, while rushing for 919 yards and 10 touchdowns in Jordan's perfect 5-0 start - continued his offensive onslaught, rushing for two touchdowns and throwing for two more, with nearly 300 combined yards offense. However, the three interceptions doomed the Beetdiggers, as did the missed extra point in the middle of the third quarter, which proved to be the difference.
In the nightcap, New Jersey's Don Bosco Prep, one of the nation's most dominant high school programs of the last decade, put on a show, racing to a 17-0 first quarter lead and a 31-0 halftime advantage, en route to a well-rounded 54-24 victory over Utah's No. 3 side, the Alta Hawks. The 54 points allowed by Alta matched a school record.
Don Bosco Prep opened the game with a 20-yard interception return by DB Daivon Ellison just 38 seconds in to open up a 7-0 lead. After holding Alta to just one first down on its opening drive and forcing a punt, the Ironmen drove all the way down to the 2-yard line but were stopped, held to a field goal and a 10-0 lead. Following another Alta punt on a 3-and-out possession, the teams traded penalties before Don Bosco Prep RB Elijah Ibuitokun-Hanks reeled off a 45-yard touchdown run for the 17-point lead.
In the 2nd quarter, Ironmen QB Frank Nutile threw for two of his three touchdown passes on the night, finding Isaih Hill for a 48 yard score on a one-play drive, before capitalizing on great field position after an Alta interception with another TD pass, this time for 7 yards to Hill. On the night, the junior QB was 12-19 for 178 yards.
Alta bounced back in the second half, as QB Chipper Lucero - also a junior - completed 23 of 41 passing for 309 yards, with three touchdowns and three interceptions. All of the picks came in the first half, while the scores all came in the second half. The game ended with the teams trading touchdowns, Don Bosco Prep watching RB Kyle Phipps reel off a 27-yard TD run with 38 seconds left, prior to an Alta kick return for a touchdown to wind down the clock by junior wideout Mack Richards.
The MVP of the game for Don Bosco Prep had to be the junior RB Ibuitokun-Hanks, who finished with 21 carries for 155 yards and two touchdowns in his team's all-around dominant performance.
Two years ago, the inaugural Xfinity High School Football Challenge featured a full weekend of events, as Notre Dame H.S. (Lawrenceville, NJ) and Taft High School (Woodland Hills, CA) arrived in Sandy for practices and a banquet featuring all four squads at the Stadium prior to the doubleheader. Jordan High School led a competitive game at halftime 14-0, before elevating their play in the third quarter and cruising to a 39-0 victory, as Beetdiggers RB Austin Grant finished with 148 total yards and a rushing touchdown, while then-freshman QB Austin Kafentzis threw for 216 yards and three touchdowns in the opener of the doubleheader. In the nightcap, Alta crushed Taft, 56-0, in a dominant performance led by Hawks RB Bryan Engstrom's 86 yards rushing and two touchdowns, while Alta QB Tyson Blackner would toss for 154 yards and three touchdowns, all in the first half.