By Alexander Payne
The St. Francis varsity football team opened its season by winning a nail biter, 23-21, over Mira Costa of Manhattan Beach last Friday.
In his first start with the Golden Knights, junior quarterback Jack Clougherty, completed 20 of 32 passes for 270 yards and two touchdowns. Senior running back Kevin Armstead rushed for 71 yards on 20 carries and one score. Junior receiver Bryson Reeves finished with 10 receptions for 128 yards and one key interception. Sophomore Max Garrison also made his presence known through big hits, hard runs and a couple of big-time catches.
The game started off hot with a huge kick return by the Mustangs, which put them in good field position. They took advantage and got on the board on a 16-yard back shoulder fade thrown by junior Sam Witney, who connected with classmate Thomas Southey for a touchdown.
The Knights got the momentum back with an interception by sophomore Mayze Bryant, who met the ball at the highest point and fought for extra yards. The big play set up a leaping run into the end zone by Kevin Armstead to even up the score.
St. Francis scored again on a lob pass by Clougherty to junior Evan Jernegan to make it 14-7 with 7 minutes remaining in the second quarter. The Mustangs would then respond with a huge pass splitting the corner and safety that set up a 1-yard run by junior Kage Geoghegan, tying the game at 14.
A low snap by St. Francis led to the punter taking a knee in the backfield, giving the Mustangs another good opportunity. The visitors found pay dirt with a 12-yard touchdown pass to senior Jackson Fischer.
The Knights responded by punching in two more scores before the end of the half. One touchdown was a 20-yard pass to open receiver Tanner Tomko and the other a 37-yard field goal by Jake Smith.
The Mustangs attempted a field goal with 5 minutes remaining in the third quarter but were denied by Jernegan.
The second half was all about defense as both teams were held scoreless. Reeves had an interception with 6 minutes remaining in the fourth that killed the momentum of the Mustangs.
Mira Costa had a final push to score at the end of the game that was revitalized thanks to a pass interference call on the Golden Knights that gave them an untimed down. After marching down to the St. Francis 48-yard-line, Witney completed a pass to the right side of the field that was then lateraled and fumbled, ending the game.
Witney also was 19 of 28 for 225 yards and two touchdowns and Southey caught seven passes for 103 yards and a touchdown.
St. Francis head coach Jim Bonds said his team had “plenty of mistakes but a lot of positives to build on” and would rather be “1-0 and make a lot of those corrections than 0-1.”
The Golden Knights will travel to La Verne to take on Damien High School this Friday, Sept. 6, at 7 p.m.