Memories for Eagle’s grad Cardona and victorious Navy Midshipmen in Poinsettia Bowl

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With such a strong military presence in San Diego County, it seemed as if both the Navy Midshipmen and SDSU Aztecs shared equal billing as “home” teams in the 10th annual San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl Dec. 23 at Qualcomm Stadium.

The Rams (8-5) used Southwestern College’s refurbished DeVore Stadium as a training site for the bowl game to further local ties to the team.

With such a strong military presence in San Diego County, it seemed as if both the Navy Midshipmen and SDSU Aztecs shared equal billing as “home” teams in the 10th annual San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl Dec. 23 at Qualcomm Stadium.

The Rams (8-5) used Southwestern College’s refurbished DeVore Stadium as a training site for the bowl game to further local ties to the team.

The 10th anniversary match-up proved special as Navy—the champions of the inaugural Poinsettia Bowl in 2005—shook off two ensuing losses in the bowl game, including a 35-14 setback to SDSU in 2010, to prevail, 17-16, over the Aztecs in a heart-pounding finish.

Navy’s Austin Grebe kicked a 24-yard field goal with 1:27 remaining in the fourth quarter to erase a 16-14 SDSU lead.

The Aztecs (7-6) got in position to win the game but Donald Hageman’s 35-yard field goal attempt with 20 seconds to play was wide right to preserve the Navy win.

Ironically, Hageman had set a new SDSU record with 20 field goals in one season after previously splitting the uprights from 43 and 37 yards in the game to boost the Aztecs to a 13-7 lead.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Navy had a somewhat sizable contingent of San Diego area players on its roster. Five players hailed from San Diego Section CIF schools, with another from nearby Temecula.

Senior long-snapper Joe Cardona attended Granite Hills High School, while other county locals included junior kicker Nick Sloan (Scripps Ranch), sophomore cornerback Cameron Bryant (Mira Mesa) and senior defensive end Paul Quessenberry (La Costa Canyon). Also, freshman safety Dexter Bell attended Imperial High School while freshman safety Randy Beggs attended Vista Murrieta High School.

A returning three-year starter, Cardona was the only the second freshman to start in program history and has established himself as one of the nation's top long-snappers on both punts and field goals.

A 2010 graduate of Granite Hills, Cardona attended the Naval Academy Prep School during the 2010-11 academic year. While at GHHS, he was a two-sport athlete who lettered twice in football and four years in lacrosse. He led the Eagles to a conference title in lacrosse in 2010, earned conference MVP honors and second-team all-section honors.

“I couldn’t ask for more,” he said. “My final collegiate game … to come back to Qualcomm and get a win in front of my family, my friends, against the hometown team, is awesome. I couldn’t ask for more than that.”

Cardona is scheduled to graduate in May 2015 at which time he will be commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. 

He said he and the other San Diego area players shared a special camaraderie on the team.

“A ton of instant friendships,” Cardona said

Go Navy

The Midshipmen, known for their penchant for running the triple-option, entered the game with 4,141 rushing yards on the season to go with 43 touchdowns. However, the SDSU defense held the Rams to their lowest total offensive output this season of 271 yards.

Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds—the game’s Offensive MVP—rushed for two touchdowns to increase his season total to 23 TDs.

Navy linebacker Jordan Drake was named the game's Defensive MVP.

Poinsettia Bowl president Vincent Mudd called the 2014 contest “a fantastic pairing of two teams that are well-known and loved, especially right here in San Diego.”

Hanging ten

The Poinsettia Bowl has been decided by 10 points or less in six of the last eight games.

SDSU's Donnel Pumphrey led all ball carriers in the game with 112 rushing yards on 21 carries. Pumphrey scored SDSU's lone touchdown of the game on a five-yard run in the first quarter to tie the game 7-7.

Aztec quarterback Quinn Kaehler completed 11 of 27 passing attempts for 141 yards with two interceptions.

SDSU out-gained Navy 327-271 in total yards. The Midshipmen accumulated 254 rushing yards on 58 carries but tacked on just 17 passing yards.

Navy's Daniel Gonzales and George Jamison each recorded interceptions. There were seven turnovers in the game overall. The game featured six fumbles, with Navy losing all four and SDSU losing one of its two fumbles.

Devante Davis recovered a muffed punt to set up SDSU's go-ahead field goal in the third quarter. Pumphrey returned the favor with a fumble near midfield that resulted in what proved to be Navy's game-winning field goal.

SDSU had a chance to extend its lead by driving to the Navy 17-yard line midway through the fourth quarter before Kaehler was incomplete on fourth-and-five. A fourth field goal would have extended the Aztec lead to 19-13 at that point in the game.

Poinsettia Bowl moments

The Poinsettia Bowl historically has featured festive pageantry throughout, and the 2014 edition was no exception.

The pre-game spectacular featured the “march on” of the midshipmen by the U.S. Naval Academy, a tradition when Navy is playing in the game.

The Parade of Wishes followed, featuring 500 children and their families from Make-a-Wish San Diego, with their courageous insight on hope, joy and strength.

As 15-year-old Katriz Trinidad, a contestant on “The Voice” TV talent search program, sang the national anthem, a football field-sized “big flag” was unfurled by 250 Marines.

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