Funny thing about football. St. Francis High opened more eyes in losing to Loyola, 31-14, Friday than in winning its first two games.
The Golden Knights shut out Burroughs and Mary Star to begin the season. Those two teams combined for exactly zero victories last season. Despite the Golden Knights' 2-0 record, the St. Francis bandwagon had empty seats.
But against Loyola, the defending Southern Section Division I runner-up, the St. Francis football field had none. About 4,000 people packed the place. The Cubs were rolling into La Canada to provide a litmus test.
If St. Francis had not improved significantly, the Cubs would crush the Golden Knights, much like the 42-0 game in 1992.
Suffice to say, the Golden Knights and first-year Coach Bill Redell are not embarrassed.
"Everybody played well," tailback Ben Collins said. "We played hard. There were just a few mental errors. I don't think they dominated us at all."
When Justin Vandercook's touchdown reception pulled St. Francis within 17-14 midway through the fourth quarter, the Golden Knights had a chance at victory.
Even after Kadar Hamilton returned the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown to make those hopes short-lived, the Cubs were convinced this was not the St. Francis team they faced last year.
"They said they weren't expecting us to be that good," Vandercook said. "I think we are a lot better. The coaches seem to know what they are doing."
Now that Loyola is out of the way, all the team has to do is prepare for this week's opponent. Some team called Mater Dei. Piece of cake.
Ripping off yardage: Need proof that defenses gang up on Chaminade running back Franklin Saunders? Consider this: Friday night against Crespi, Saunders wore three jerseys because they kept getting torn.
Saunders, who rushed for 186 yards, began wearing No. 5. Midway through the second quarter, he became No. 33. When that jersey ripped in the fourth quarter, he put on another No. 5.
After the game, which was played at Pierce College, a Pierce player who watched Chaminade noted that the Eagles had a good pair of running backs.
"No. 5 was faster," he said, "but No. 33 was stronger up the middle."
Trivia time: What do Newbury Park quarterback Keith Smith, Montclair Prep quarterback Darrell Dent and Crespi wide receiver Mike Glendenning have in common?
Running away: It's understandable that Rio Mesa fullback Junior Liufau was looking past Santa Clara--all its players were behind him.
Liufau rushed for 270 yards in a paltry 12 carries Friday--including a 90-yard scoring run in which he was untouched--but the Spartans had to sweat out a 25-24 come-from-behind victory over the winless Saints.
"We should have beaten them by a lot," Liufau said. "I don't know what happened. The whole week we were goofing off."
Only a guess, Junior, but that might be a clue.
Calling off the 'Dors: Based on Jerry Brown's 226-yard rushing performance in Taft's 49-14 victory over Monroe on Thursday, we can infer which of the following?
a) Brown, piling up big numbers behind three second-string offensive linemen, is arguably the area's best running back.
b) Coach Troy Starr, who removed Brown one minute into the second half, is merciful.
c) Monroe is mediocre.
d) All of the above.
According to Starr, the answer is d.
"(Brown) is outstanding," Starr said. "He just runs. The offensive line did an adequate job, but Monroe was poor."
On taking Brown out early, Starr said: "There was a small part of me that said, 'Wow. He could get 300 or 400 yards here.' "
Starr said the three injured starting linemen--Joey Rothman, Leo Robateau and Kiki Rovero--will play this week against Kennedy.
Down and out: Thousand Oaks suffered its second heartbreaking defeat in as many weeks Thursday, and quarterback Trevor Thompson perhaps expressed best where the Lancers are emotionally.
Moments after Thousand Oaks' 21-14 loss to Canyon, in which a Thompson touchdown run was nullified with two seconds to play, he graciously shook hands with his opponents, then turned away and fought off tears of frustration.
"We've got a lot of disappointed players right now," he said. "We thought we had the game. Once again, we should have won, but we didn't."
With the Lancers losing to Hart, 24-17, the previous week, Thompson and Co. are 0-3--with every loss against a top 10 team from the Foothill League.
They hint of dumping their frustrations on their Marmonte League opponents.
"We're getting sick of hearing Foothill League teams say they're playing down a level by playing us," Thompson said. "(Canyon running back) Ed Williams said they should have dominated. We should have dominated. This team doesn't quit. It has more heart this year than it did last year."
Foothill stomping: Thompson's remarks notwithstanding, the Foothill League finished 5-0 against the Marmonte League this season.
Besides Canyon's victory over Thousand Oaks, Saugus has beaten Thousand Oaks, 34-20, and Royal, 21-20, and Hart has defeated Thousand Oaks, 24-17, and Westlake, 31-14.
Trivia answer: Smith, Dent and Glendenning played this summer in the Area Code Games, a showcase for some of the best high school baseball players in the West.
Staff writer Dana Haddad contributed to this story.
The 200-Plus Club
Nine running backs from area high schools gained more than 200 yards in games this weekend. They are:
Name School Att Yds TD Robert Smith Camarillo 15 271 5 Junior Liufau Rio Mesa 12 270 3 Jermaine Lewis Antelope Valley 28 247 2 George Keiaho Buena 39 247 3 Jerry Brown Taft 14 226 4 Chris Johnson Saugus 23 222 2 Shaun Williams Crespi 29 219 2 Josh Hawkins Nordhoff 17 210 1 Wilbert Smith Montclair Prep 21 204 3