(Pasadena, CA)—The Southern California sun was shining brightly on this picture-perfect postcard day as the 8th National Football Players Association’s (NFLPA) Collegiate Bowl game was played at the world-famous Pasadena Rose Bowl Stadium. Temperature at the 2 pm kick-off was 73 degrees, with big blue skies overhead, and absolutely no clouds in sight. Thus, a much welcomed short sleeved environment was present. This was in stark contrast to the three consecutive days of bad, stormy weather that drenched the Southland during game week. And for the fans present, the stage was finally set for the gridiron battle between the American vs. National teams to take place.
Note From The Editor: We now bring you our multi-faceted production of this event through our write-up, our photo gallery, video of our three post-game player interviews, and action footage of the final (:30) seconds of the game.
1st Qtr—Both teams had equal opportunities on both offense and defense, but there was never any sustained momentum by either squad. There was lots of running, passing, and special teams play as NFL Head Coach Chuck Pagano (Chicago Bears)/American and Mike Tice (Former Minnesota Vikings Head Coach)/National, platooned many players in this All-Star-formatted game. The first quarter was played to a (0-0) draw.
2nd Qtr— The first scoring action came by way of RB/#34 Wes Hills/Slippery Rock, who scored on a 4 yard run over left tackle. The PAT was good and the scoreboard read (7-0) in favor of the Nationals. The set-up plays just before the TD run included a pinpoint pass that went from QB/#12 Brent Stockstill/Middle Tennessee St. to WR/#86 Jeff Smith/Boston College followed by an 11 yd. keeper by Stockstill down to the 9 yd line. Then, a 5 yard penalty was assessed to the Americans setting up the 4 yard TD by Hills. The scoring drive took 6 plays and covered 94 yds.
The National defense then was credited with a #20/CB/Darius Williams/Colorado St.-Pueblo interception off QB #5 Kyle Schurmer. He returned the theft 25 yards to the American 25 yd. line. Two plays later, QB/Stockstill was stripped of the ball for a fumble but the Nationals recovered it for a 27 yard loss. After a 5 play drive, with (1:59) left in half, a fumble by the Nationals at the 50 yd. line gave the ball back to the Americans. Their drive stalled as the period ended.
Photo Gallery: Erik Sarni, Digital Photography and Videography, East L.A. Sports Scene Productions
HALFTIME SCORE: Nationals 7 Americans 0
3rd Qtr—The Nationals received the kick-off, but on their first drive, a #3/QB/Jake Browning/Univ. of Washington pass was intercepted by the American’s, #29/CB/Nate Brooks/North Texas, at the (13:00) minute mark. On the Americans second play after taking possession, #15/QB/JaJuan Lawson/Univ. of Rhode Island, threw a highly accurate 22 yd. rainbow to his WR/#89/Juwann Winfree/Colorado in the coffin corner of end zone for a TD. The PAT was good and tied the score at (7-7). This came at the (12:45) mark. On the Nationals next possession, they re-grouped and began to run on the strength and legs of #34 RB/Wes Hills, Slippery Rock College. They marched to the “Red Zone” with (3:11) left in the period. However, they bogged down and brought in #19 Justin Yoon/Notre Dame for his second FG attempt, this time from 32 yards out. He missed by inches as the ball hit the cross bar and sailed away. Then, it was the American team’s turn to showcase a go-ahead drive. Utilizing his playing time judiciously, #22 RB/John Santiago/Univ. of No. Dakota, rushed for 20 yds. on 2 carries during this drive and helped his team to retain critical momentum. And to add just a bit of distance in the scoring, a 42 yd. FG try attempted by American PK/#27/Rafael Gaglianone/Wisconsin was perfect, giving them a (10-7) lead with just (:20) seconds left to play in the period.
4th Qtr—The Nationals started the period off at their own 20 yard line and began a long drive that took them into American territory. However, an intercepted Jake Browning pass by LB/#54/Silas Stewart, set up the Americans in great field position at the National 45 yd. line. The Americans ensuing play resulted in a timely 16 yd. gainer by RB/#22/John Santiago. On this drive, a surprising “gadget” play surfaced when #5/QB/ Kyle Schurmer handed off to Santiago, who then pitched it back to Schurmer. In return, he then found Santiago, who had leaked out into the flat, all alone for a big “catch and run” play down to the 10 yard line. That was followed by a 7 yd. pass completion to the versatile Santiago who took it down to the 3 yard line. However, the American drive stalled at the 2 yd. line and the Nationals took over. After an exchange of possessions, and with the game clock showing just (1:43) minutes left, the Nationals mounted a drive from their own 38 yd. line on their final possession of the contest, and were desperately trying to get into field goal range for the tie, or go for the winning touchdown in the waning moments of the game. Good idea, but they had no time-outs left. The American defense held on as time expired during the last play of the game.
FINAL SCORE: American 10 National 7 —With this win, the American Team broke the seven game winning streak held by the National Team.
NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Game Stat-Line: Offense: John Santiago/American/75 All Purpose Yards; 36 Rushing Yards on 3 carriers (12.0 ave.); longest 20 yds; 39 Receiving Yards on 5 receptions (team-high); longest 18 yds; David Lucero/American/3 receptions/25 yds/longest 9 yds; Nico Evans/National/2 carries/17 yds; longest 15 yds;/Ave 8.5 yds; Wes Hills/National/78 rushing yds on 10 carries; 1 TD; longest 17 yds; Ave. 7.2 yds. Selected as Game MVP; Special Teams: David Lucero/American/3 Kick-offs/Ave. 62.5 yds/2 touch backs.
Spotlight on “Top Prospect” Latino players:
#22 John Santiago/RB/5-10/190/Univ. of North Dakota “Fighting Hawks”/Andover, MN. Earned All-American honors for third straight season in 2018; had a career rushing average of 6.0 yards per carry at North Dakota. Santiago recently signed a contract with the Canadian Football League’s (CFL) Winnipeg Blue Bombers after the Draft.
#46 David Lucero/TE/6-6/240/UTEP “Miners”/Holtville, CA. (near El Centro, CA); Played 1 year at Boise St. before transferring to UTEP; attended JUCO, Eastern Arizona Community College. The NFL’s Oakland Raiders signed Lucero as a Free Agent after the NFL draft.
Spotlight on “Top Prospect” Local players:
#32 Nico Evans/RB/5-10/220/Loyola HS “Cubs”– Los Angeles/Univ. of Wyoming “Cowboys”/Career stats: GP-47/Rushing-1,433 yds; Carries-239; Longest-75 yds; 8 TDs; All Purpose Yds – 1,710; Evans was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles as a Free Agent. Aca’Cedric Ware, Malik Dorton, and Chris Brown/USC all played in this game.