Despite a lot of new faces, the championship expectations remain at Yuma Catholic.
YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - Yuma Catholic has been among the premier prep football programs in Arizona for quite some time. Despite losing some Shamrock greats, the mindset of Rhett Stallworth’s team heading into this season remains the same.
“Every year the goal is a state championship and we have played for seven of them now," head coach Rhett Stallworth said.
Sot(coach stallworth): “every year the goal is a state championship and we have played for seven of them now.
The last time Yuma Catholic played for a state championship was in 2021 and the last time the Shamrocks won the state title was in 2014. That was in class 3A. Due to the Shamrocks successes, they now play in class 4A, but as one of the smallest schools in the class.
"It is state championship or bust as far as we are concerned,” Stallworth said.
Each season, the upperclassmen take it upon themselves to maintain the Shamrocks championship culture.
"I’m a captain now and it is just setting an example for all the younger kids," senior running back and linebacker Tayt Ford said. "We have a lot of new starters, so just showing them the ropes and how we do things around here and what the coaches expect out of us.”
This season there will be a new quarterback under center, as Richard Stallworth, the state's all-time leading passer, has departed for college. The man looking to fill those big shoes is sophomore Nash Ott.
"We have a good replacement, it is just a matter of getting him his reps and get him seasoned up," coach Stallworth said. "So we will probably run the football a little bit more than we have in the past. I think we will pick up where we left off last year. It might not all be through the air but it will be fairly balanced.”
While a young quarterback's best friend might be an effective run game, his second best friend is a great defense.
"We are going to be super dominant on defense," Ford said. "Our goal is to shut out the team every time and be as physical as possible.”
"Our mentality is hard headed, making sure no one is running the ball down our throats and making sure we stop any back that is trying to get past us," junior linebacker Rocky Stallworth said. "And of course stop some long balls.”
The Shamrocks defense will showcase one of arizona’s most feared pass rushers, University of Oregon commit Jaxson Jones.
"He is that card that trump card that helps you out in defensive gameplanning," coach Stallworth said. "He comes off the edge better than anybody. So when you have a 230 pounder coming off and 4.5, it is very hard to block off the edge.”
The Shamrocks quest to get back to a state championship game will not be an easy road, but it is a challenge they relish.
"I believe we have the second hardest strength of schedule in the state, so we are going to have some good games and the competition is going to be fun,” Ford said.
On Friday, Yuma Catholic will kick off their season on the road against Marcos de Niza. To stay up to date on this game and all the prep football action around the desert southwest, make sure to tune into Friday Night Lights on News 11.