Connor Brewer, Cody Ippolito, DaVonté Neal, Jake Roh, Carter Wood and Trevor Wood have quite a bit in common this bowl season. In 2012, they all won a state championship together and in 2014, they are all suiting up in the Vizio Fiesta Bowl.
Add Arizona redshirt seniors Brendan Murphy and Chase Gorham to this list and that makes eight Firebird football alumni will be in uniform for the major local bowl game they all grew up watching to finish up their 2014 season. For most, it will be in blue and red uniforms but for one it will be in a white, blue and orange one. Tight End Jake Roh is the lone player of the group that will not be wearing a Wildcat uniform.
The Chaparral Football fraternity is a close one but this week, its Roh vs everyone else.
“I’ve talked to them here and there but it’s a competitive games to we are keeping our sides,” said Roh.
“It’s definitely going to be fun because it’s someone you know,” mentioned Arizona linebacker Cody Ippolito. “It’s going to be even more competitive especially since he is on the other side of the ball from you…It’s going to be fun to hit him.”
The pipeline from Chaparral is well documented since Rich Rodriguez took over as head coach in Tucson. Hiring former Chaparral head coach Charlie Ragle to his staff, landing recruits and transfers who are former Firebirds has led to the team. But seven players combined between the two teams all coming from one high school playing in a bowl game in the same city as their alma matter is truly rare.
“It’s pretty crazy,” said Arizona offensive lineman Carter Wood. “You never think out of high school that you will be playing with the same guys in college. Especially here, we’ve got six or seven. It’s going to be pretty neat to play against a guy you played with in high school on the other side of the ball. I am excited to watch all of my Chaparral buddies have a great game out there.”
“It’s a great high school program and obviously Charlie Ragle will take all the credit,” Head Coach Rich Rodriguez joked. “There is a lot of good football players period in this valley and I wish all the best ones would come to U of A. Now I know that isn’t going to happen but there are a lot of really good ones in this valley and in this state.”
Many of these players have gone on to have successful 2014 seasons. For Roh, at the tight end position, he eared All-Mountain West Honorable Mention this season for the Broncos. On the Wildcats sidelines, Ippolito, Neal, and both Wood brothers have had substantial playing time for a Wildcats program that is seeing the more success this year in quite some time.
With all of these players being from the Phoenix area and a few being born and raised, all have a great recollection of the history of the Fiesta Bowl. In fact, the famous 2007 game between Boise State and Oklahoma is a vivid memory.
“I actually remember not going to the Boise State, Oklahoma Fiesta Bowl when we had tickets,” Roh remembered. “So that was a little bit of a regret so it is funny being here now.”
“The first college football game that I had ever been to after moving to Arizona was the Fiesta Bowl and it was with Boise State and Oklahoma,” Ippolito mentioned. “Looking back on that now with it being the first game I ever went to and now I am playing in it? It’s just crazy to me.”
“It’s a great opportunity for me,” added Arizona receiver and returner Neal. “Watching it for so many years and being so excited when the game came on every year and now being excited because I get to play in it. It’s shocking.”
The Wildcats obviously have a lot of representation of local players playing in this Fiesta Bowl. But Boise State has long been a program that has come into this state and recruited heavily as seen with Jake Roh and many before him. In addition to Roh, Boise’s back-up quarterback is former Paradise Valley stand out Ryan Finley and also safety Brandon Brown from Sandra Day O’Connor High School and offensive lineman Jerhen Ertel from Bagdad High School. In addition, the Broncos offensive line coach Scott Huff is a Horizon High School graduate.
Overall there will be 42 players listed on both rosters combined who played high school football in Arizona for the 2014 Vizio Fiesta Bowl.