High school football: The bar has been raised for Jordan and Alta at XFINITY Challenge
Last year's inaugural XFINITY High School Football Challenge at Rio Tinto Stadium was a bit of a dud. Despite great fanfare leading up to the doubleheader, neither out-of-state team scored a point as Jordan trounced Notre Dame, N.J., 39-0, and Alta dismantled Taft, Calif., 56-0.
In hindsight, the blowouts were exactly what Rio Tinto Stadium President Bill Manning needed to take his grand vision to the next level.
"Year one was successful 'cause it gave us the ammunition in year two to pick up the level," said Manning.
Manning, a New Jersey native, wasn't quite sure how Utah teams would stack up nationally prior to last year's event — but his doubts were quickly erased.
That realization allowed Manning to raise the bar for the second annual XFINITY Challenge, and did he ever. Nationally ranked Don Bosco Prep, of Ramsey, N.J., and St. John Bosco, of Bellflower, Calif., stroll into Rio Tinto Stadium this Saturday to take on two of Utah's best programs in what should be an exciting day of football.
Jordan takes on St. John Bosco at 2 p.m., followed by Alta squaring off with Don Bosco Prep at 7 p.m.
"I'm really excited about the two games. I think it's going to be a great test for Utah," said Manning.
Don Bosco Prep finished last year as the No. 1-ranked team in the country, according to USA Today, and despite the graduation of numerous seniors, it arrives in Utah this week ranked No. 21 in the country according to MaxPreps.
"We hear real great things about Utah football, and it should be a heck of a weekend," said Greg Toal, head coach of Don Bosco.
Don Bosco rolls into town with a 2-1 record and is coming off a 62-14 victory over DePaul, N.J.
Alta coach Bob Stephens said he watched film of Don Bosco's 20-10 victory over St. Thomas Aquinas in Florida two weeks ago, and was very impressed by the team's ability.
The Hawks had a bit of a square last week against rival Brighton, but they eventually pulled away for a 48-31 victory by scoring the game's final 20 points.
St. John Bosco had originally agreed to play a game in Sacramento this weekend. However, when Manning approached coach Jason Negro earlier this year and asked if he'd like to participate in a doubleheader in Utah that would also include St. John Bosco's sister school on the East Coast, Negro said his school jumped at the chance.
Jordan and St. John Bosco run similar offensive and defensive schemes, and both start sophomore quarterbacks.
St. John Bosco had a bye last weekend, and its coaches were in Utah to get familiar with the surroundings. They also had a chance to watch Jordan quarterback Austin Kafentzis throw eight touchdowns in a 56-0 win over Copper Hills.
"Kafentzis is pretty special, there's no doubt about that. He's got a lot of abilities and he's got playmakers around him, and what they have up front certainly doesn't hurt either," said Negro.
Tickets for the games can be purchased at RioTintoStadium.com, and they're a couple bucks cheaper if purchased prior to Saturday.