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Yuma's Top 10 stories of 2012
1. Bernie Montoya dominates at state, national levels
With all of the accolades Cibola runner Bernie Montoya has earned during his time in Yuma, his No. 1 national ranking on MileSplit.com is something not even his coach Kris Norton envisioned happening.
“I could see them ranking him third or fourth, to be honest,” Norton told the Yuma Sun in October. “The kid that's No. 1 is the national champion. How do you take your national champion and not rank him No. 1? But Cheserek had a sub-par performance and we beat him at nationals; we now have a faster mile time. He's almost just as fast.”
The ranking came after Montoya ran a 4:01 mile at the 2012 adidas Dream Mile in New York. There were only two high school juniors in U.S. history, Jim Ryan and Alan Webb, that had run a faster time.
Montoya watched the 2012 Olympics with an eager eye and hopes for Brazil in 2016 in the back of his mind.
“It's a goal,” Montoya said. “A lot of people definitely believe I can get there, I believe I can get there. Work is done out here on the track and whatever college I go to. It'll be tough in college because you have to focus on other things like studies, but you find a way. It's just going to come down to whoever wants it … and I really want to go to Brazil.”
Montoya ended 2012 with his third state cross country title and third straight 2012 Yuma Sun/Yuma Rotary Player of the Year award.
2. Cain Velasquez regains heavyweight title
Cain Velasquez added two more “W's” to his stellar career MMA record. And one of them made up for the lone “L.”
After beating Antonio Silva in May in a first-round technical knockout, the Kofa graduate got what he waited more than a year for — another shot at Junior dos Santos.
Dos Santos needed just 64 seconds to knock out Velasquez in Nov. 2011, taking the title from Velasquez, who owned it for just one fight. But after topping Silva, it was announced that on Dec. 29, Velasquez would get another shot at dos Santos.
And he made the most of it. He won by unanimous decision, winning every round on every judges' card.
With the fight happening so recently, it's hard to tell what's next for Velasquez. Likely two more fights in 2013 for sure, with an outside chance of a third showdown with Dos Santos.
3. Arizona Western claims first bowl win in 40 years
Heading into the El Toro Bowl, things weren't looking good for the Matadors. They had lost two of three games, ending their hopes of a second chance at a national championship, having lost the title in the 2011 El Toro Bowl.
They were ranked out of the top 10 playing the No. 6 team in the country, Nassau Community College.
But for the first time in the Tom Minnick era, the season ended with a bowl win.
The Matadors topped the Lions 42-37, building a big early lead then holding off a surge by their foes from New York. Pat Martin gave the Matadors the lead with a 44-yard interception return and they never trailed again.
Quarterback Tanner McEvoy, in possibly his last game with the Matadors, was the offensive MVP of the game despite two interceptions, still throwing for 245 yards and three touchdowns.
The Matadors finished the year 8-2 and ranked in the top 10 for the fourth straight year.
4. YC football loses title defense to rival Northwest Christian
The football rivalry that has been brewing between Yuma Catholic and Northwest Christian added another chapter this season. Meeting for the seventh time in four years, the Shamrocks and Crusaders delivered another heavyweight bout that ended with Northwest Christian winning 21-17 in an Arizona Interscholastic Association Division V Semifinal. All seven of their meetings have been decided by a touchdown or less and 2012's playoff game was no exception. Despite fumbling twice inside the Crusader 10-yard line – including one that was returned 100 yards for a touchdown in the Shamrocks' opening drive – the Shamrocks had a 17-14 lead in the fourth quarter. However, in the Crusaders' second-to-last drive of the game, Northwest Christian got a 29-yard touchdown pass on a fourth-and-10 that was the deciding score.
There was a sense that the semifinal game between the Crusaders and Shamrocks would provide the favorite for the state championship and Northwest Christian went on to beat Morenci 21-7. It marked the third straight year that either the Crusaders or Shamrocks have won the title – Northwest Christian also winning it in 2010 and Yuma Catholic taking it in 2011. And if recent history is any indication, the 2012 semifinal won't be the last the two teams will see each other.
5. Cibola wrestling falls one win shy of title
“One more win and that's it.”
That's what Mike Jankowski said of his Cibola wrestling team in February after the Raiders finished with 120.5 points at the Division I Wrestling state Championships in Prescott. They finished second to Chandler, which had 122 points.
2012 started with the Raiders continuing their quest of getting to the state tournament and putting themselves in a position for a title, which was their stated goal when the season began in November 2011. But even with Pierre Gaud winning an individual title for the Raiders, the team still finished one win shy of glory.
So as the 2012-13 season began in November, “One Win” was the rallying cry for the Raiders, and it has shown in the early season. The team got some revenge on Chandler, beating it in a duel. And they've been dominating local, state and even multistate meets as they look for that one extra win in February 2013.
6. AWC alum Sergio Romo helps Giants win World Series
Former Arizona Western College pitcher Sergio Romo delivered the final out to clinch the 2012 World Series title for the San Francisco Giants.
Romo is known for his signature slider, but was able to freeze Tiger third basemen and triple crown winner Miguel Cabrera on his 89 mile per hour fastball after throwing five straight sliders.
Romo took over the closers role for the Giants after teammate Brian Wilson had to have Tommy John surgery for the second time in his career in April.
Unlike traditional closers, Romo does not have electrifying stuff. His fastball sits in the high 80's while he pounds the strike zone with breaking pitches.
This was Romo's second World Series title, winning his first with the Giants in 2010.
7. Yuma Catholic golf wins second straight title
Bob Anderson knew about his two stars, sophomore Grady Bourguignon and senior Joey Pickels. He also knew he needed a third player to step up if the Shamrocks were seriously going to repeat as Division III State Champions. He just didn't know what to expect.
Max Coffeen provided the answer. The senior shot a 149 — just one stroke behind Bourguignon, who the year before was the state runner-up to help the Shamrocks win another state title.
Neither Bourguignon nor Coffeen made a serious push for a state title, as the winner shot a 143. But for Coffeen and Pickels, who shot a 157, they helped the Shamrocks to a title in their final prep seasons.
And as for Bourguignon, he has two more years for either an individual title or to help the Shamrocks to another team title or two. Or even both.
8. YC baseball falls in state title game
After collapsing in the semifinals in 2011, the Yuma Catholic baseball team found themselves right where they wanted to be from the very beginning of the 2012 season. After surviving Scottsdale Prep in their first game and demolishing St. John's in a quarterfinal, the Shamrocks beat No. 1 Phoenix Christian 4-3 in eight innings to advance to the state championship.
With a roster full of talented seniors, the Shamrocks had spent the season knowing they had the talent to win the title. They faced St. David in the championship and before fans were nestled into their seats, the Shamrocks had dug themselves a hole too deep.
The Tigers jumped out of the gate and scored seven runs before the Shamrocks could get three outs – coming off of six hits and a pair of errors by Yuma Catholic. On offense, the Shamrocks were held to just three hits and didn't score until St. David had built their lead up to 9-0 in the fourth inning. The Shamrocks managed to extend the game in the fifth by scoring a run to make it 13-4, but the Tigers loaded the bases in the sixth and got a walk-off single that ended Yuma Catholic's season.
9. Former Cibola pitcher Sarah Ray leads Phoenix College to NJCAA title
Former Cibola softball pitcher Sarah Ray led Phoenix College to their ninth NJCAA Division II championship in May.
After defeating Parkland College (Ill.) 8-0 to qualify for the championship game, Phoenix beat defending national champion LSU-Eunice 8-0 in game 1 with Ray picking up the win in the shutout.
Ray tossed a complete game two-hitter in game 2, leading the Bears to a 2-1 victory and the crown.
Ray was named Outstanding Pitcher of the Tournament.
Ray pitched 210 innings in 2012, going 26-9 with 122 strike outs and a 2.70 ERA. In her sophomore year Ray was the only Phoenix College pitcher to pitch over 200 innings and had a 21-4 record with a 2.68 ERA.
Ray is currently gearing up to pitch for the University of West Alabama this season.
10. Gila Ridge softball beats three Top 10 teams in improbable state run
The Gila Ridge softball team was the last team invited to the party. Coming into the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division II State Tournament as the No. 24 seed, nothing was expected of them other than a quick departure. Instead, the Hawks opened with a 2-0 win at No. 9 Desert Edge. Not wanting their ride to come to an end after one win, they traveled to No. 8 Mohave and came away with a 7-5 win to advance them to the Final 8.
Once in the double-elimination tournament, they faced No. 1 Sunrise Mountain and the game was tied 1-1 in the fourth before the top-seeded Mustangs pulled away for a 9-1 victory. With their backs against the wall, the stubborn No. 24 Hawks refused to roll over and stunned No. 4 Prescott 9-2. After beating its third Top 10 team, Gila Ridge's season came to an end with a 12-0 loss to Canyon del Oro, which eventually beat Sunrise Mountain 11-9 in the state championship.