Burroughs head coach Keith Knoop must have cringed when he looked at his team’s schedule during the off-season.
It was bad enough his varsity football team would play five consecutive road games, including four games against Pacific League foes. Worse yet, the Indians (2-1) had to start the road trip by figuring out a way to stop St. Francis star running back Deitrich Riley.
Unfortunately for Knoop, Riley was the least of his concerns — his offense gave up costly turnovers and could not find the end zone, as St. Francis (3-0) defeated Burroughs, 30-5, in Thursday night’s non-league game at Friedman Field.
Complicating matters for Knoop was dual threat Justin Sciarra. The St. Francis quarterback rushed for two touchdowns and tossed for another on 13-for-16 passing and 115 yards.
“They had a good game plan,” St. Francis head coach Jim Bonds said. “They prevented us from making a big play in the first half.”
Apparently, that was exactly what Knoop wanted.
“We had to control the clock,” Knoop said of his game plan. “We had to keep the ball out of their hands if we wanted to win.”
While that game plan kept Burroughs close at halftime and limited Riley to only 26 rush yards in the first half, injuries and turnovers started to pile up for the Indians in the second half.
Junior running back Dalton Williams, who rushed for 55 yards in the first half, was injured early in the second half. His backup, wide receiver Eddie Lopez, suffered from a bruised thigh moments later.
“I didn’t have anyone to give the ball to,” said Knoop, whose star running back Dominique Barnes was sidelined just before the game and only received a few handoffs late in the game. “I was down to my fifth-string running back. We had players carrying the ball who never played at running back before today.”
That’s when St. Francis began to take charge.
Sciarra, who rushed for a touchdown in the second quarter, sparked an offense outburst when he found Chris Sember for a 21-yard touchdown reception, giving St. Francis a 17-3 lead with 2:33 remaining in the third.
After Burroughs failed to convert on a fourth-and-2 on its on 28 yard line, Sciarra scored on his second quarterback keeper, extending the Golden Knights’ lead to 24-3 with 27.7 second remaining in the third.
Following that touchdown, Burroughs failed to convert on another fourth down situation, giving St. Francis the ball back 25 yards away from the end zone.
Senior running back Evan King capitalized for the Golden Knights, as his 7-yard touchdown run gave St. Francis a 30-3 lead with 8:14 remaining in the game.
The Burroughs defense added two points on a safety moments before the final horn. In two home games this season, St. Francis has outscored its opponents 84-12.
Bonds credited his team’s success and immunity to injuries to proper conditioning.
“We are in great shape,” he said. “Our players are very well-conditioned, and it’s our opponents who are getting injured.”
Bonds added that other players have stepped up their games to take the focus off of Riley.
“Some people say all we have is Deitrich Riley,” he said. “We have a whole stable full of players.”
Riley agreed, saying players such as Sciarra and King produced significant numbers in three games this season.
“Last year, it was all about looking for number 4,” he said. “But this year, we have a lot of weapons.”
Despite the slow start, Riley finished with 98 yards on 18 carries (including 72 rushing yards in the second half).
Burroughs quarterback Lucas Yanez completed eight of 16 passes for 109 yards, while kicker Michael Solana nailed a 44-yard field goal in the second quarter for the team’s only offensive score.
St. Francis started 3-0 for the fifth time in six games, and have not lost to Burroughs since 2002 — a span of seven games.
“Us not having our guys in key places was brutal,” Knoop said about his team’s missing offense. “Turnovers are going to be there when you have inexperienced guys.”