TUITAMA, BRUNSWICK RALLY ST. MARY'S

Jesuit of Carmichael, the defending CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I champs, upset in home opener after leading 21-0 at halftime. Stockton school's 29-28 win sets up some interesting rankings questions.

When Willy Tuitama's name started popping up on lists of the top junior football players in the state, there were some who were perplexed. This was a kid, after all, who had yet to take a snap in a varsity game.

But all during the spring and summer, thanks to some intense training, it was obvious to anybody who saw the 6-3, 200-pounder out of St. Mary's of Stockton at the Stanford Nike Camp as well as at an EA Sports Elite 11 Quarterback Tryout in Las Vegas that there was some magic in that arm of his. And it didn't take long for that magic to be shown once Tuitama got into the game on Saturday in the Rams' matchup against host Jesuit of Carmichael.

Combining with receivers Anthony Crosby and Roger Brunswick, Tuitama led the Rams to a 29-28 comeback win over Jesuit. He completed 10 of 17 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns, all in the second half.

The result stamps St. Mary's as a major force for the rest of the season in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section as Jesuit entered with the state's No. 10 ranking and was No. 1 in the Sacramento Bee preseason ratings. The win came one night after Lincoln of Stockton clipped Granite Bay, 28-25, in its first game. Both rivals will now go immediately into San Joaquin Athletic Association play and probably will be 9-0 when they play each other during the final weekend of the regular season. St. Mary's lost to Lincoln last year, 62-7.

Jesuit looked as good as advertised in the first half. The Marauders, utilizing a massive offensive line and the experienced leadership of senior quarterback C.J. Bacher, scored on a four-play drive to open the game and only seemed to allow St. Mary's a glimmer of hope. Bacher's one-yard run early in the second quarter and an eight-yard run by Armond Jackson with just 19 seconds left before halftime gave Jesuit a 21-0 lead.

St. Mary's began its comeback on the first series of the third quarter. Senior quarterback Barry Enright, a returning starter who won a battle for the starting job over Tuitama during fall practices, went 6-for-6 on that drive. The capper came on a 12-yard fade to the right corner that Crosby snagged. On that play, though, Enright took a shot to the ribs that turned out to end his day.

After Jesuit went three-and-out on its first series of the second half, Tuitama entered the game. He threw a 30-yard strike on his first pass that might have gone for a touchdown, but it was dropped. On the next play, he smoked one on a slant pattern to Crosby, who broke the seam between the two safeties and streaked into the end zone for a 45-yard touchdown. It was now officially a game.

One of the major problems for Jesuit was that its players seemed to be more impacted by the 98-degree heat than St. Mary's players. Standout WR/DB Matt Evans suffered serious leg cramps and only played sparingly after leaving the game early in the third quarter. Bacher had to be treated for leg cramps and seven other starters had to leave the field. St. Mary's only had one starter felled by muscle cramps.

Bacher still sucked it up after the Rams' second touchdown and led the Marauders on a drive that seemed to resume their dominance. He completed one 25-yard pass for a first down to junior tight end Joe Rost off a scramble that showed what he does best. Two plays later, Bacher threw another 27-yard pass to Rost that went for a score.

With less than five minutes left, Jesuit was in prime position to tuck away the win. The Marauders were seemingly on their way for another score, but Sean McNamara fumbled and Deryck Leniohan recovered for St. Mary's. On the next play, Tuitama threw a simple hitch pass into the right flat to Brunswick, who made the catch, made a few stop-and-go moves, found an opening and wound up darting for a 67-yard touchdown. Tuitama then went to Brunswick on a fade to the left post for a two-point conversion and the lead was down to 28-22.

All Jesuit needed to do on its next series was make a first down or two and kill the clock. Instead, two short passes were dropped (which stopped the clock) and a third-down running play was stopped. St. Mary's got the ball back with plenty of time left and Tuitama led the Rams down the field. He snuck behind the line to convert a fourth-down play and a key 15-yard penalty against the Marauders also helped. With 1:00 left, Jeff Johnson scored on a five-yard run for the Rams. They only needed a PAT for the lead since they went for two earlier and Russell Conboy converted.

Jesuit still had time to drive for a field goal, but Bacher had a pass intercepted by Jimmy Johnson. He got rocked just as he was delivering that pass by St. Mary's line standout John Gibson.

Bacher ended with 148 yards passing, going 9-of-17, and also had 31 yards rushing on five carries.

Crosby also looked perhaps as good as a receiver as Tuitama as a quarterback. Also a junior -- St. Mary's is loaded with juniors and will be highly-ranked next year in preseason polls -- Crosby netted 12 passes from Enright and Tuitama for 170 yards and one touchdown.

With Jesuit losing, Grant of Sacramento, which won its opening game 49-6 over Franklin of Stockton on Saturday, should move up to No. 1 in the Sacramento area and probably will gain some spots in the state rankings.

Jesuit seems to be at its best anyway when operating a little below the radar screen, not in the center of it. And anybody who writes off the Marauders as a team that won't win the section title again because of this loss would be an idiot. Once the weather turns cold, teams blessed with big, strong linemen can have an advantage. Jesuit definitely is one of those teams. Its line, led by Dominic Green (6-4, 275), Andrew Booth (6-6, 275), John Faletoese (6-4, 260), Jonathan Karacozoff (6-3, 255) and Josh Catapano (6-4, 240), looks to be among the best in the state.

St. Mary's may be No. 1 ahead of Lincoln in the local Stockton Record rankings, but Lincoln may be ahead of St. Mary's in other circles. Those two will play in week 10 and perhaps again a few weeks after that in the section semifinals. It's one debate that certainly will get settled on the field.


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