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St. Francis football gets back on track after topping Saugus

LA CAÑADA — Looking for a spark on special teams, the St. Francis High football team turned to a freshman to get things going in a positive direction.

A week after struggling on special teams, St. Francis got back on track thanks to a huge effort from Max Garrison.

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Garrison finished with two touchdowns, including a 94-yard kick-off return to begin the second half, to power host St. Francis to a 17-13 nonleague win against Saugus on Friday at Friedman Field.

St. Francis (2-2) yielded three touchdowns on special teams in a 34-21 loss at Westlake on Sept. 7, but improved considerably against Saugus (4-1).

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“We have a pretty young team and sometimes you are just focusing that much more on offense and defense,” said St. Francis coach Jim Bonds, who piloted the Golden Knights to the CIF Southern Section Division III championship game en route to being named the All-Area Football Coach of the Year last season. “We had some tough situations on special teams last week and we’ve been good at that for a long time.

“Max stepped up and gave us a lift in a close game. His touchdown have us some breathing room and he’s the kind of player who doesn’t back down.”

With St. Francis, which finished second in the Angelus League last season, holding on to a 10-7 halftime lead, Garrison took the kick off and returned virtually untouched and giving St. Francis some much-needed momentum.

Saugus opened the scoring when quarterback Cole Gallagher (12 of 28 for 101 yards and two touchdowns) tossed a five-yard touchdown pass to Trevor Girch with 3:07 left in the first quarter. The touchdown came after Blake Adams recovered a fumble near midfield. Adams had two fumble recoveries, both in the first quarter.

Garrison recorded an interception at the Saugus 35-yard line with 10:54 left in the second quarter. The Golden Knights cashed in the turnover with a 38-yard field goal from Jake Smith with 10:27 to go in the first half.

Garrison gave the Golden Knights a 10-7 advantage on a two-yard touchdown run with 4:04 remaining in the second quarter.

“Another big play right there by him,” Bonds said. “I think he just goes out there and sees things so well.”

Garrison’s touchdown was the lone score of the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, Saugus’ Matthew Ballentine picked off a pass by St. Francis quarterback Darius Perrantes, the reigning All-Area Football Player of the Year, near midfield.

Julian Bornn of Saugus caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Gallagher with 5:12 left to pull the Centuruions to within 17-13. A botched snap on the extra-point attempt led to a failed run by Saugus.

St. Francis’ Bradley Pierce had two first downs on the ground to help the Golden Knights run out the clock.

Perrantes, a senior, completed 11 of 27 passes for 178 yards. Pierce finished with 45 yards rushing in 11 carries.

“We knew coming in that it would be a physical game and that proved to be the case,” said Bonds, whose team defeated Saugus last season. “Saugus has a well coached team and their guys always play hard. We’re just glad to come away from here with a victory.”

At halftime, the school held its annual hall of fame ceremonies. Those inducted were Jake Friedman, track and field, golf, class of 1974), Joe Taormina, football, baseball, 1981), Andrew Van Orden, cross-country, soccer, 1996), Robert Garafolo, football, track and field, 2001) and Katie and Allen Lund (alumni parents).

St. Francis will compete in a nonleague road game against Harvard-Westlake at 7 p.m. Friday.

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