Gaffney family athleticism on display for Cathedral Catholic

BY foxsports • September 19, 2012

Tyler Gaffney, the 2008 California high school football player of the year, capped his Cathedral Catholic career with a 329-yard performance in the 2008 CIF State Division II bowl game, one final personal hallmark to conclude a 14-0 season before embarking on a dual-sport concentration at Stanford University.

Featured as a wildcat back and amassing 156 carries behind two-time 1,000 yard rusher Stepfan Taylor, Gaffney ran for 815 yards and 12 touchdowns in his Cardinal football career before signing with the Pittsburgh Pirates in July and forgoing his senior seasons at Stanford Stadium and Sunken Diamond.

"There are no more Bo Jacksons in the world," Gaffney, who hit .301 with 33 doubles, eight homeruns and 76 RBI over 161 games for the Cardinal, told ESPN.com.

It's a decision his brother, Drew Gaffney, may have to make fairly soon.

A senior tight end at San Diego's Cathedral Catholic (2-1) who doubled as a forward on USA Rugby's U-17 All-American team and played overseas last spring, Drew Gaffney will look to exhibit his family's athletic genes when he opposes Southern Section powerhouse Vista Murrieta (3-0), a school ranked 10th nationally by FOX Sports Next. The game will be televised regionally on Prime Ticket at 7:30 p.m. this Friday.

Having drawn interest from the prestigious rugby program at the University of California, any cross-Bay collegiate family rivalries will be shelved for the time being by the Carmel Valley resident, who continues to develop as blocker and a passing option under head coach Sean Doyle.

"He's starting to do a really good job at having a knack of getting to that open spot as a tight end," Doyle said of Drew Gaffney, who has caught five passes for 56 yards and a touchdown for the Dons.

"You draw plays up on a piece of paper, but the kids don't need to stick to that exact pattern, per se. They can break things off a little early, a little late to get to those open spots, and he's really learning how to do that well."

Cathedral Catholic's defense led to a 16-7 upset last Friday over Helix, the previously top-ranked San Diego Section team. Parker Price's three interceptions and an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown helped end the Highlanders' 15-game winning streak and will now key in on a Vista Murietta offense that has plenty of weapons in quarterback Nick Stevens and the versatile Su'a Cravens but has broken in an almost entirely new offensive line.

"We obviously look at film and watch what they do. It gives us hints of what we could possibly do," Doyle said of preparing for Vista Murrieta. "When we're watching film of them, I'm telling the kids ‘Watch the kid across from you. How does he play? On the offensive side, is he a penetrator on the D-line? Is he more of a stay and read guy? What are their linebackers like?' You always put that in. But when it comes down to it, if we don't play to the best of our abilities, it's not going to make a bit of difference."

"We found that out the week before when we didn't play very well, and we got beat by a [Torrey Pines] team that in my opinion is not as good as us – which was a good wakeup call for us."

Cravens, the nation's top safety recruit who committed to USC in June, is a punishing hitter and the only returning player from a secondary that helped lead the Broncos to an Inland Division Championship last December.

He is also capable of appearing as a linebacker in certain sets, which should create a terrific matchup between one of the country's premier defensive players against a tight end whose sheer physical strength and versatile athleticism will be opening up doors in both football and rugby.

It's Drew Gaffney's leadership and work ethic that reminds Doyle of his brother, Tyler.

"Both of them silently got it done in the off-season, in practice," Doyle said. "[They're] just hard workers who didn't try to slack on any end of the game. Drew doesn't. He always tries to lead the team."

Doyle has made a habit of sitting down with his graduating seniors as a group midway through their final season to discuss college opportunities while making sure their game film gets distributed.

When Tyler Gaffney was at that point in his senior season in 2008, he hadn't yet committed to Stanford and was still waiting for the right school to allow him to play both football and baseball.

The decision to drop one sport wasn't made until he turned 21 and was drafted in the 24th round, 736th overall, by the Pittsburgh Pirates in June. He fell in the draft following a disappointing junior season in which he bat .246, nearly 80 points below the average he maintained in his freshman and sophomore seasons.

As a leadoff hitter for the Short Season-A State College Spikes, Tyler Gaffney bat .297 with an impressive 1:1 strikeout-to-walk rate and offered glimpses of the toughness he established playing football by being hit by a pitch an astounding 20 times in 151 plate appearances.

It was that toughness identified in him by Jim Harbaugh during his recruiting process, and the toughness his brother Drew has exhibited in his own football and rugby experience that will be on display against one of the country's top teams Friday night.

Though he'll be more focused on Su'a Cravens and the Vista Murietta defense, Drew Gaffney's eventual choice between football and rugby should provide another compelling backdrop in the inter-sectional clash.

"It'll be interesting to see what he decides to do, which way he decides to go," Doyle said.


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