Holy Family of South Pasadena captured the Catholic Youth Organization Flag Football Championship Nov. 17 with a 28-0 victory over St. Rita of Sierra Madre.
The championship and third place games were played on a perfect day for football at St. Paul High School in Santa Fe Springs, on the brand new turf of Marion Ancich Stadium.
The title game pitted two Foothill East Conference foes. St. Rita, the conference champions and third overall seed, came into the game with a 13-0 record, while Holy Family, conference runnerup and No. 4 seed, entered the game at 12-1, their only loss at the hands of St. Rita in a tight contest to determine the conference championship.
For Holy Family, coached by Paul McAndrews, this was its third straight CYO Championship appearance, having won in 2011 and finishing as runner up in 2012. St. Rita, which always fields a formidable squad, has advanced to the finals multiple times under the leadership of Coach Randy Davies, most recently in 2009.
The spirited crowd of supporters from both schools included Msgr. Clement Connolly, Holy Family pastor emeritus, and Msgr. Richard Krekelberg, St. Rita pastor.
In the first half, Holy Family had two key stops on fourth down to halt St. Rita drives, and took a 16-0 score into halftime despite vigorous play by the Raiders. The Knights then scored twice in the third quarter to extend their lead to 28-0, as both teams gave it their all.
But while this was an emotional contest for players, coaches and fans, the respect and appreciation was very much in evidence during the post-game handshake.
Like the title contest, the third place game which preceded it was a matchup of conference rivals: South Bay champion American Martyrs of Manhattan Beach, which entered the playoffs as the top seed with an 11-1 record, and St. James of Torrance, which finished third in the South Bay at 10-3, but upset several teams in the playoffs to reach the Final Four.
American Martyrs took a 12-0 lead into halftime. However, St. James made some adjustments and scored to get within five points, 12-7. American Martyrs answered the challenge with another touchdown, 19-7, after which St. James answered back by scoring a late TD in the fourth quarter to make it 19-14. But St. James could not regain possession and the Mustangs held on.
“I think it is incredible to have both games feature teams from the same conferences,” said James McGoldrick, CYO director. “It’s a rarity for CYO or any league, but it shows the strength of football in Pasadena and the South Bay. All four teams should be proud of advancing this far in what was a very difficult tournament."
The semifinals, played Nov. 16 at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, saw Holy Family defeat American Martyrs 30-8, and St. Rita defeat St. James 20-12.
The 2013 CYO Flag Football season featured 135 varsity teams to start the season, with 60 qualifying for the playoffs. McGoldrick also expressed CYO’s gratitude to all the schools which provided field access during the regular season and playoffs, including: St. Paul, Serra, Bishop Montgomery, Notre Dame, Crespi, St. Francis, Damien, St. Mathias, St. John Bosco, Salesian, Verbum Dei, Cantwell Sacred Heart and St. Bernard High Schools, and American Martyrs School.