High school football
Veteran QB 'RhettRod' ready to lead Catalina Foothills into big road test
Catalina Foothills senior quarterback Rhett Rodriguez has stood on the sidelines of plenty of big games.
Start with the 2006 Sugar Bowl, when West Virginia – coached by his father, Rich Rodriguez – knocked off the SEC champion Georgia. Fast-forward to a couple years ago and he can clearly recall watching his dad’s Arizona Wildcats team fall just short in the Fiesta Bowl against Boise State.
“It didn’t come out our way,” said Rodriguez, who is verbally committed to play for the UA. “But that was such a big game on a big stage.”
Rodriguez – better known as ‘RhettRod’ – will play on a different big stage on this week, in arguably the biggest high school game of his storied four-year career.
Catalina Foothills will travel to face perennial power Scottsdale Saguaro on Friday night, taking on a team that has won three straight state championships and is coming off a nationally televised victory against Colorado’s 2015 5A state champion.
“This is the best team in the state, any division,” Catalina Foothills coach Jeff Scurran said. “You don’t have to look very far to find someone who agrees with that.”
For the veteran Rodriguez, this will be his 36th high school game under center. Aside from starting in four playoff games over the last three years, not much comes close to Friday’s tilt at Saguaro.
“It’s a great match-up between two of the top teams in the division,” Rodriguez said. “So we know there very well could be a rematch later on in the season. This might be the biggest regular-season game I’ve ever played in.”
A year ago, Rodriguez passed for 2,503 yards and 20 touchdowns, rushed for 624 yards and 14 scores and guided Foothills to just its second postseason victory in program history: a 21-16 win against Yuma Cibola. The senior has posted a 25-10 record since making his debut as a freshman in the fall in 2013.
In addition to the physical growth, Rodriguez has become more and more comfortable on the field over the years. That was especially evident to Scurran in last week’s season-opening win against Tempe.
“Watching Rhett reminded me of watching Peyton Manning,” Scurran said. “He’d stand at the line of scrimmage, point out things, make checks, make blitz pick-up calls and we’re to the point now where he really runs the offense.
“He’s grown up on his dad’s sidelines; his knowledge of football is spectacular but it’s growing.”
That knowledge will be extremely beneficial on Friday night, when Rodriguez lines up against some of the best prospects in the state. Among them is safety K.J. Jarrell, a four-star recruit with scholarship offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Texas A&M and USC among others.
After all, it won’t be the first time Rodriguez has seen or faced elite competition.
“I’ve gained a lot experience playing,” Rodriguez said. “But I’ve watched games for 18 years now so I’ve got a pretty good football I.Q. just from watching. I’ve been pretty lucky.”