}Video: From ashes to end zone
Cardinal Newman is a rallying point for a region ravaged by the most destructive wildfire in California history. Beau Barrington
has completed hundreds of passes to his longtime friend Kyle Carinalli
in practices and games over the years.
The Cardinal Newman (Santa Rosa, Calif.)
quarterback has hooked up with Carinalli 23 times for 568 yards and 10 touchdowns this season alone.
But the connection they made Saturday night will be remembered — and treasured — in Northern California for generations.
Barrington fired a short inside route to the speedy Carinalli, who turned it into a 42-yard touchdown pass with 92 seconds remaining to give Cardinal Newman a 29-28 North Coast Section Division 3 semifinal playoff win over rival Rancho Cotate (Rohnert Park).
The Cardinals (10-2) go after their 13th section title Saturday against top-seed Marin Catholic-Kentfield (11-0).
As the second seed, Newman is hardly a long shot, but considering half its campus was destroyed in the devastating and deadly Tubbs Fire
, this would no doubt be its most resilient and heart-felt championship.
The Tubbs Fire scorched parts of Napa, Sonoma and Lake counties in October, caused at least 22 deaths and destroyed 53,000 structures. The most destructive wildfire in California history ravaged Santa Rosa, a city of 175,000 people, and caused damage estimated at $1.2 billion.
Newman's football season was put on hold for more than a week as the families of players and coaches mucked through the rubble and dealt with the chaos and trauma. Ninety of the school's 600 students lost their homes, including five Newman football players from the 44-person roster.
Barrington and Carinalli were two of them.
Carinalli, a 5-foot-10, 170-pounder known for is quick feet on the field, had to evade flaming embers while fleeing his home. He told the San Francisco Chronicle
when he returned hours later, his home was gone.
"It was like watching my entire life turned to ash," he said "It just didn't seem real."
Barrington, also known for his quickness and ability to escape pressure, said football has been a great tool to escape reality. Upon his return home, he called his neighborhood a "ghost town."
"Football used to be our life," he said. "Now it's like our getaway from everything that's bad."
Watching Carinalli zip through the Cotate secondary Saturday surely was sheer joy and escapism. When he crossed the goal line, the Newman players, faithful and community flailed a collective fist and afterward some even shed tears.
"I was so excited watching him run," Barrington told the Chronicle
. "I knew as soon as he took off he was going to score."
The Cardinals are certainly a rallying point for a region hit hard by real life. Newman coach Paul Cronin, interviewed by countless local and national media since the fires, has tried not to put that burden on his team. He's focused the players on the game, strategy, camaraderie and not the tragedy.
On the game-winning play: "We weren't think about houses," Cronin said. "We found a match-up we could exploit with Beau and Kyle, and Kyle just turned on the afterburners."
He said Saturday that his team didn't play great. But he was proud of how they had fought back from a 12-0 deficit — and clearly so much more.
"We fought and fought and fought," he said. "When you get slapped in the mouth, you have two choices: Stay down or get back up. You've got to respect our resilience."