Santa Rosa is back in the national semifinals for the first time this century after squeaking past Albuquerque 30-28 on Saturday and Omaha 18-5 on Sunday.
The Albuquerque game was extremely tight. The biggest lead belonged to Santa Rosa when they jumped up 13-0 in the 17th minute, but the Aardvarks replied with a 20-3 run towards the end of the first half, taking a 20-16 lead.
However, Santa Rosa wing Gary Parseghian dotted down in the 39th minute, and Aaron Anthony converted, to regain the lead (23-20) for Santa Rosa going into halftime.
Defense tightened up in the second half, and it took until the 60th minute for Girala Diego to draw Albuquerque level at 23 with a penalty kick. Santa Rosa regained the lead with a converted try in the 70th minute, and Albuquerque nearly forced overtime with a Denson John try in the final minute, but the conversion attempt was unsuccessful.
“We had a lot more chance to prepare for Albuquerque. They matched us in the forwards, and we were lucky our backs were able to do some good work,” said Santa Rosa coach Alan Petty. “Gary Parseghian had two big tries to sort the game for us. It was a really exciting game offensively.”
The quarterfinal against Omaha was a much more defensive affair. Santa Rosa led 3-0 at halftime, and Omaha got its only points in the 43rd minute when Blake Shultz touched down for an unconverted try.
“Omaha tackled better than anybody we’ve seen, ever. We just could not slip a tackle against those guys. Their defense was awesome,” said Petty.
“Omaha was basically sitting on Parseghian, and our forwards had to take that game over.”
Santa Rosa’s pack was instrumental in the next eight points, with flanker Bryce Paulson scoring a try in the 51st minute and the forwards earning a shot at goal in the 66th minute, which Aaron Anthony converted to give the NorCal club an 11-5 advantage. Reserve Chris Elkin scored Santa Rosa’s second try in the 74th minute, converted, to seal the win.
Santa Rosa reached the final four three times in the ‘90s. Sunday try-scorer Bryce Paulson’s father, Scotty, played on the 1992 semifinalist and 1993 National Championship teams.