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Aztecs claim Warrior Bowl 21-7; secure CIF home playoff game Phillip Brents | Fri, Nov 19 2010 03:28 PM

As it turned out, the stakes for the two teams battling it out in last Friday’s inaugural Warrior Bowl at Castle Park High School was a home game in the opening round of the San Diego Section Division III playoffs. The Montgomery Aztecs defeated the host Trojans, 21-7, to raise the large trophy, donated by the Montgomery Lions Club, in a rather exuberant post-game celebration.

With the win, the Aztecs (2-1 in Metro-Pacific League play, 7-3 overall) earned a home game against the San Marcos Knights (4-6) in Friday’s opening round.

The Trojans, who finished 1-2 in league play, 6-4 overall, received a first-round road assignment at Lincoln (4-6).

“In a game like this where you have a neighborhood rivalry, when you’re playing for a trophy, both teams come out hard and really want to win,” said Montgomery coach Julio Alcala, whose team received the No. 8 seed in the 12-team divisional draw. “We just got lucky to come out on top.”

Diego Rodriguez topped the 2,000-yard mark for the season by rushing for 201 yards and scoring two touchdowns to lead the Aztecs to the Warrior Bowl triumph. Rodriguez scored on runs of 40 and 27 yards — one in each half — after Steven Shafer staked the visitors to a 7-0 lead on a one-yard run with 7:05 left in the first quarter.

Shafer, normally a receiver, was pressed into emergency duty at the quarterback spot after starter Jordan Lippman was unavailable due to penalties handed out for an on-field incident involving players from the Aztecs and host Sweetwater the previous week.

Shafer handled himself well behind center and the Montgomery coaching staff even threw in a few plays over the course of the game to try to out-fox the CP defense.

It was the Aztec defense, in particular, that had the most to say about which team came away with the Warrior Bowl trophy.

The Trojans tied the scored at 7-7 on a 29-yard pass from John Hernandez to Paul Sierra with 3:07 to play in the first quarter. Following Rodriguez’s 14-7 go-head touchdown,  the hosts missed a golden opportunity to tie the game again when they fumbled the ball at the Aztec 10-yard line.

Montgomery missed a chip shot field goal attempt with 1.8 seconds left in the first half to keep Castle Park within a touchdown on the scoreboard. The Trojans had further opportunities to do more damage throughout the second half before Rodriguez sealed the game with his second TD with 4:49 left in the fourth quarter.

The unsung Aztec defense, in one word, came up huge.

“Both teams had opportunities to move the ball on offense,” Alcala said.

For the season, Rodriguez has rushed for 2,045 yards and scored 23 touchdowns.

It was believed the winner of last Friday’s Warrior Bowl would likely receive a first-round home game while there was some concern the loser might not even receive an invitation to this year’s post-season tournament.

A total of eight teams in the division finished regular season play with winning records and 12 teams had records of .500 or better. Included in that latter group were four South Bay playoff hopefuls: Montgomery (7-3), Mar Vista (7-3), Castle Park (6-4) and Southwest (5-5). With a 34-6 loss to Mar Vista and an outcome hanging in the balance against Montgomery, the Trojans had to feel a bit uneasy heading into their regular season finale. But Castle Park was selected to compete in the 12-team playoff draw, earning the final No. 12 seed.

First-year Castle Park coach Hans Graham called his team’s season a success, regardless of how far his team advances in this year’s playoff bracket.

“I can’t say enough about this group — it’s a great group of kids,” the CPHS coach said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better group my first year as head coach. This group had a lot of success this year, going from just three wins last year.”

Jamar Shelby led the Trojans with 52 rushing yards on 11 carries against the Aztecs while Sierra gained 44 yards on 11 carries and also caught three passes for 39 yards. Hernandez completed eight of 21 passing attempts for 117 yards. Nicolas Martinez had three catches for 66 yards.

For the season, Shelby has rushed for 904 yards while Sierra has rushed for 899 yards and has scored 14 touchdowns. Castle Park is averaging 230 rushing yards per game.

Playoff preview
The Montgomery-San Marcos winner advances to the division quarterfinals on Nov. 26 against top-seeded St. Augustine (8-2).

The Knights enter Friday’s game as the No. 9 seed in the division and are coming off a 56-21 win against Mission Hills in last Friday’s Discovery Bowl.

The Trojans will be facing a Lincoln team that finished 2-3 in Eastern League play, with a 27-3 upset victory against league champion St. Augustine but with losses to Mira Mesa (15-14), Scripps Ranch (21-20) and Cathedral Catholic (31-15).

Despite the loss to the Hornets, the Saints earned the No. 1 seed in the division on the strength of last Friday’s 28-21 win against Cathedral Catholic (5-5) in the teams’ annual Holy Bowl contest, played in front of a sellout crowd at Mesa College.

Grossmont Valley League co-champion Mt. Miguel (8-1-1) earned the No. 2 seed in the division playoffs and will host Friday’s Mar Vista-Point Loma first-round winner in the quarterfinals.

Cathedral Catholic is seeded third while Ramona (5-5) is seeded fourth.

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