Seton Catholic gets chance at redemption vs. Blue Ridge

Seton Catholic gets chance at redemption vs. Blue Ridge

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Seton Catholic gets chance at redemption vs. Blue Ridge

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The motivational signs on the locker-room and weight-room walls at Chandler Seton Catholic don’t contain words of wisdom or inflammatory comments from an opposing coach or player.

Instead, there’s only a score:

45-14.

That was the result of last year’s Division IV state semifinal loss to Pinetop-Lakeside Blue Ridge, and had coach Rex Bowser wanted, he could have added a few other numbers. Say, 440 for Blue Ridge’s rushing yards or 31-6, the halftime score that rendered the final two quarters meaningless.

Most teams would try to burn that memory. Seton has embraced it, hanging onto the humiliation in every game, every practice and every workout. And finally, the moment the Sentinels dearly wanted has come: Saturday’s Division IV state-championship game. The opponent: Blue Ridge.

Redemption can be theirs in just 48 minutes.

“We were looking forward to playing Blue Ridge,” Bowser said. “That might be really stupid on our part, but that’s been our rallying cry all year.”

Bowser and his players will admit now that they were unprepared to play Blue Ridge last year. Seton had cruised through the regular season undefeated and beaten Chinle and Parker by a combined score of 121-25 in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

But in Division IV, there’s the way Blue Ridge plays football and the way everybody else plays football. Blue Ridge’s punishing, physical style stunned the Sentinels.

“They started hitting us, and everybody was like, ‘Whoa, we’re not used to doing this. We haven’t done this all season,'” said senior wide receiver/defensive back Daniel Garlid.

Added Bowser: “We went into that game and we really didn’t know what to expect. We got hit in the mouth, and we didn’t react very well.”

But the lesson, while painful, also was valuable. Seton finally understood what it needed to work on to compete with Blue Ridge or Show Low, the traditional powers in Division IV. Passing for 3,132 yards and 46 touchdowns — as Seton has done this year — looks nice on the stat sheet but doesn’t translate into a championship.

Seton had to become stronger, more physical on the line of scrimmage and better able to withstand the punishment Blue Ridge always delivers.

“We’ve talked about it all year,” Bowser said. “One time or another we will bring up Blue Ridge and say, ‘This is what they did, this is how we responded; ‘OK, how are we going to change that?'”

The signs were a warning.

“We wanted to remind ourselves of the feeling we had after the game,” Garlid said. “We never want to have that feeling again, coming so close and not being able to accomplish what we wanted to do.”

Seton again had its way through the regular season this year, its only loss coming to Tempe Prep back in early September. But it wasn’t until last Saturday’s semifinal game against Show Low that the Sentinels documented their growth.

Seton crushed Show Low, 42-14, and ran for 182 yards while holding Show Low to 108 yards rushing. One month earlier, Show Low gained 259 yards on the ground against Blue Ridge.

“I thought the result of the Blue Ridge game was what caused the result of the Show Low game this year,” Bower said. “Our kids understood, ‘This is how you have to play. This is what it takes.’ And they’ve adapted very well. The way they responded against Show Low, I have no doubts about the capability of our kids whatsoever.”

Seton will be the underdog Saturday. Blue Ridge has won 28 consecutive games and can win its third state title in four years and the 13th for coach Paul Moro.

But Seton won’t be intimidated. It won’t curl up the first time Blue Ridge throws a punch. The Sentinels may lose, but it won’t be because they’re not prepared.

45-14 is in their marrow.

“We’re not going to let it happen again,” Garlid said ” …When they hit us we’re actually going to be able to hit back this time.”

Reach Bordow at scott.bordow@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-7996. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/sBordow

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