Brophy vs. St. Mary’s football rivalry renewal fails to match hype

Last week’s season opener between Brophy Prep and St. Mary’s HS was supposed to be the rebirth of an age-old rivalry between the two tradition-rich Catholic schools, one that used to generate state-wide interest.

But it looks like the attempted re-start may have been a bit premature.

Rivalry games need to be competitive to stir the fan base for both schools.  Brophy’s 49-0 romp over the Knights last Friday only proved that St. Mary’s isn’t ready for that kind of challenge yet.

But the fans were definitely ready for the resumption of a rivalry that was begun in the mid-’50s and was once one of the most anticipated annual events in high school football.

The stands were packed for the game at Central High School, which provided a field that was conveniently-located  for the two central-Phoenix schools.  The game had drawn enormous enthusiasm in both communities since the resumption of the rivalry was announced in the off-season.  Pre-game ticket sales were through the roof.

A win was a long shot, at best, for the Knights, who play in the 4A conference.  Brophy plays in the 6A conference, the top conference in the state, where the all-boys school won a couple of state titles in the early 2000’s and are a perennial contender in the playoffs.

But the Broncos looked vulnerable going into this season, a situation not lost on St. Mary’s.  They are coming off a winless, seven-game season in 2020, scoring just a shade more than an average of nine points a game and getting outscored, 243-66.  To St. Mary’s second-year coach, Jose Lucero, they may have looked primed for an upset.

But that was an illusion.  Brophy put the game pretty much out of reach by halftime, leading 35-0 going into the locker room.

The lopsided loss took the wind out of the sails of a St. Mary’s team that was riding high following a season in which the Knights won its first playoff game in two decades.

Brophy senior quarterback Elijah Warner, who suffered an injury in the first game of 2020 and was done for the season, made a triumphant return, establishing a dominance early by throwing touchdown passes on the first four possessions of the game.  Layton Duncan pulled in the first two TD passes from Warner and Carlos Dominguez accounted for the next two.

Working behind an offensive line that was almost impenetrable, Warner passed for 291 yards in the first half and finished the game with 356 yards.

How dominant was the Brophy offense?  The Broncos finished the game with 472 total yards, while their defense held the Knights to 46 total yards of offense.  St. Mary’s managed just four first downs the entire game.

Prior to this game, it had been nine years since the two schools met on the football field.  Brophy won the last two games they played, 63-0 and 58-6, so it’s easy to understand why it was time for a break.

And now it’s obvious that it’s still too soon to try to return to those glory days of one of the state’s best rivalries.

But, for someone like me who attended Brophy during those rivalry years, it sure was fun thinking about it.