The all-encompassing good for Immanuel High athletics – and that’s wide ranging – finally hit a wall Saturday night a long, long way from home.
It was here, 335 miles from Reedley and but a 10-minute drive from Tijuana, Mexico, that the Eagles were simply outmatched by superior athletes in every department and lost 56-21 to Mater Dei Catholic in the CIF State Division V-AA championship.
To classify the 14-1 Crusaders as D-V is purely semantics, for they overwhelmed Immanuel (11-3) with several players who could impact D-I forces from De La Salle-Concord to Centennial-Corona.
We knew coming into the game by watching film they were legit, but there’s nothing like seeing it live.
Immanuel quarterback Caleb Paulson
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“We knew coming into the game by watching film they were legit,” Eagles quarterback Caleb Paulson said, “but there’s nothing like seeing it live. That’s one heck of a football team.”
It began with quarterback Chris Jones and running back CJ Verdell – two absolute blurs and, frighteningly, only juniors.
Jones rushed for 124 yards and two touchdowns in seven carries and passed for 168 yards and two scores, and Verdell rushed 14 times for 138 yards and two TDs in a game that closed with a running clock in the fourth quarter.
292 Combined passing and rushing yards by Mater Dei Catholic’s Chris Jones
Mater Dei Catholic, with an enrollment of 705 compared with Immanuel’s 275 in a matchup of private schools, had outgained the Eagles 283-63 while mounting a 21-0 halftime lead. And the total yards discrepancy finished 492-188.
“Look at those caliber of players and it’s just a whole different level,” Immanuel coach Matt Armstrong said. “Those guys play for any Clovis school, any (Tri-River Athletic Conference-level) team. Those are D-1 football players.”
Mater Dei Catholic – formerly called Marian Catholic before moving to this east Chula Vista site in 2007 – actually went 15-0 on the field, but lost by forfeit to El Capitan-Lakeside in the second week of the season for use of an ineligible player in a game the Crusaders won easily on the scoreboard.
As opposed to Immanuel, which feared a physical mismatch after studying film, Mater Dei Catholic arrived with little worry.
“No, we weren’t too concerned,” Verdell said. “But they did make it to state so you have to give them their props.”
Paulson closed a splendid career by passing for 160 yards and two TDs, and Ryan Case returned a kickoff 85 yards for a score for Immanuel, which had won Central Section D-V and state North Division V-AA Regional titles.
This followed a 30-3 Eagles boys basketball season that reached the SoCal D-IV Regional semifinals last year.
And the school will have a Feb. 16 ribbon-cutting ceremony at a 55-acre sports complex 2 miles south of the campus. That will house two baseball and two softball fields ready for play on that day, and also a 3,000-seat football stadium that could be christened next fall.
Immanuel has long played its home games at Reedley High.
“I’m proud of our guys, they played their hearts out,” Armstrong said. “What a great year, what a great run. It was not the outcome we wanted to end it, but we were humbled and honored to represent the Valley in this game.”
Mater Dei Catholic-Chula Vista 56, Immanuel 21
Mater Dei (0-0)
M: Kyle Moses 14 pass from Chris Jones (Alex Golembiewski kick).
M: CJ Verdell 16 pass from Chris Jones (Alex Golembiewski kick).
M: Chris Jones 70 run (Alex Golembiewski kick).
M: Eli Shelton 80 kickoff return (Alex Golembiewski kick).
M: Kyle Moses 21 run (Alex Golembiewski kick).
I: TJ Specht 55 pass from Caleb Paulson (Viktor Cooper kick).
M: Chris Jones 25 run (Alex Golembiewski kick).
I: Ryan Case 85 kickoff return (Viktor Cooper kick).
M: CJ Verdell 66 run (Alex Golembiewski kick).
M: CJ Verdell 16 run (Alex Golembiewski kick).
I: Kyle Dunigan 1 pass from Caleb Paulson (Viktor Cooper kick).
Rushing: Immanuel, Ryan Case 9-30, Adrian Jump 1-3, Caleb Paulson 5-(-21), Kyle Dunigan 6-16. Mater Dei Catholic, Mario Williams 8-63, Chris Jones 7-124, CJ Verdell 14-138, Jayden Emberton-Gaines 3-(-1).
Passing: Immanuel, Caleb Paulson 14-25-1-160. Mater Dei Catholic, Chris Jones 12-21-0-168.
Receiving: Immanuel, TJ Specht 1-55, Ryan Case 2-23, Adrian Jump 1-0, Andrue Lackey 3-19, Kyle Dunigan 1-1, Chris Rosedale 7-69. Mater Dei Catholic, Harrison Williams-Kee 1-16, Kyle Caldwell 1-4, David Bracamonte 4-39, Eli Shelton 2-48, Jovan Baylesss 2-31, CJ Verdell 1-16, Kyle Moses 1-14.